A Universal Malady

How much is enough? – A questioner

Just a little bit more. – John D. Rockefeller

Do you know the name of the number-one disease in our post-modern society? Polio? AIDS? The Big C? Not even close. This silent paralytic is affecting virtually every member of the human race worldwide, and its very nature inures its staying power like the cement of a barnacle on the pilings of an aging wharf. Strangely, in every known case, affected individuals lead completely normal lives and experience no pain, discomfort, or loss of physical ability – but the mortality rates are a staggering one hundred percent.

Yet this crippling and subversive sickness has been embraced by the general public, and leading spiritual, secular, and ethical thinkers even tout the malaise as a high virtue of which the whole of mankind must strive to be possessed. Its name is satisfaction, and, rather than bestow all manner of peace and joy as it is widely believed to do, its singular effect is to create a debilitating necrosis of desire in the hearts and minds of its unwitting victims. It mercilessly erodes the great pillars upon which the very pulse and throb of progress are predicated, and its end is the mortification of hope, the murder of motivation, and the mastery of all who fall under its malignant influence. Among the killers of our age, it is truly chief.

The Twist

Am I saying that, contrary to the tides of conventional wisdom and popular thought, satisfaction is something of which we should remain perpetually abhorrent? Incredibly, yes! Satisfaction and success are mutually exclusive entities. But here is where things take an interesting turn. The fulcrum of the entire argument is founded upon a subtle yet essential syntactical difference between satisfaction and its cousin, contentment. I wholeheartedly believe that you should always be perfectly content at every echelon of your life while remaining completely dissatisfied. Let me explain.

The Cure

Contentment is the intellectual and emotional acceptance of your particular circumstances which enables you to derive the maximum amount of pleasure and benefit from those circumstances. Satisfaction, on the other hand, is a passive acceptance of those circumstances as the pinnacle of achievement with not a thought given to what comes next. The former provides a rich context in which ambitions proliferate with rapidity and efficacy; the latter lays dreams to rest in a lifeless grave of presupposed attainment.

If Newton had been satisfied with basic astronomy, would we have experienced the immense benefits of optics, calculus, and the scientific method? If Edison had been satisfied with the phonograph, would we still be without electric lighting, motion pictures, and alkaline batteries? These men were irrepressibly dissatisfied, and their dissatisfaction left an indelible legacy on the pages of history. No empire was ever forged, no nation erected, no masterpiece crafted, no revolution birthed by the paralyzing impotence of satisfaction. It is a state of enervation, the Slough of Despond, a starvation of the mind and soul.

The content man is free to revel in the shallows while nurturing a visceral longing for the horizon. The satisfied man does not know the horizon exists because he is enamored with his sandcastle and oblivious to the sea.

Are you satisfied with your sandcastle?

– CD