Can one be critical and find contentment?

Can one be content when it is a character trait to always see how something might be improved?  Could be changed for the “better”?  I am referring to constructive criticism, not the snarky “Oh she shouldn’t wear that dress with those hips” kind.  And the definition of content and contentment as I am using them here is to be happy with present circumstances, how they present themselves, satisfied with the status quo.  Is such contentment a prerequisite for happiness?

photo by Lisa Z Lindahl
Version I

There’s the question.

Must one be content in order to be happy?  Can one be discontent and genuinely happy?  Well, yes, in a way.  I am thinking of those who are motivated by curiosity and the need to solve a puzzle or similar challenge.  A theorist or scientist who is not content with the status quo in his/her field, so is actively (and happily) pursuing alternate theories/proofs.  Aren’t all politicians happy hollering about what’s wrong and betting their future employment on their ability to express their discontent most convincingly?  (Specific solutions being in short supply in such diatribes.)  These are situations where the lack of satisfaction with the status quo actually supplies purpose and happiness to a person.  So to have a critical analytical mind is an asset, a good thing.  One may be a ‘professional critic’ and a content person.

But I’ve digressed a bit.  I really think  this question as I am addressing it boils down to a question of one’s attitude about perfection. What is the tolerance for non-perfection?  Whatever ‘perfection’ is perceived to be.  And if one is always striving for the next level towards perfection, and therefore never content with the status quo… then  he/she may be deemed a chronic critic, or as one person put it:  “deeply devoted to being dissatisfied.”   Hmmm.

photo by Lisa Z Lindahl
Version II

And in such a perpetual state, is it possible to find chronic contentment as well?

So, is the ability to be critical a bad energy or a good one?  A negative force or a force for change?  I guess it depends on, aside from how the message is delivered, the fundamental purpose behind the reach for perfection.

And let’s face it:  perfection is an existential ideal.  If it does exist, it is ephemeral.  Not static. Life is gloriously, artistically, dynamically messy — always in a state of flux.

If you are one that tends to reacher for perfection, are you able to distinguish between that quest for perfection and your own personal level of contentment and happiness which allows for imperfections — the spice of life, not the bane?

I am one of those.  And I am learning everyday to enjoy the spice, while trying to keep it in the “mild” category, alas.

photo by Lisa Z Lindahl
version III

Leave a Reply