Is it apathetic to be content? In today’s world, I find myself asking this question a lot. This past Sunday Darrell and Tyler were watching football and I noticed that so many commercials with athletes send the message that you should always strive to be better, to do more, and to work harder. Being content with your performance today is being mediocre. Although I can’t argue with the admirable work ethic, I sometimes wonder if the message the world sends to all of us is that we are never good enough and it is wrong and downright lazy to be content.
In the Jimmy Johns sandwich shop near my home, they have a sign hanging up with a story by Mark Albion about a fisherman on a small island. I found the version below at: http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=70#sthash.wrHhZh4w.dpuf It really speaks to me:
Businessman and the Fisherman
–by Mark Albion (Apr 19, 1999)
A young businessman was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Seeing several large yellowfin tuna inside the small boat, the businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of the fish and asked how long it took to catch them. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied.
A little surprised, the young business man asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The content fisherman said, “This is enough to support my family’s immediate needs. I don’t need any more.” “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” asked the confused young man. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a walk with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my buddies; I have a full and busy life.”
The lad scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “How long will this all take?” to which the young man replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then?” The business man laughed and said “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”
“Millions, sir? Then what?”
“Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a walk with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your buddies.”
In many ways, I find myself identifying with the fisherman on the island. In truth, I have the best of both worlds—a regular paycheck and work experience, but since I work part time, I have more time and energy to write and do things with my family. Yet, I feel like I should be doing more. After all, it would be nice to have the extra income having a full-time job can bring, but at this point in my life, would the additional stress it would bring to our family actually be worth it? My kids are teenagers. In a few short years they will all be in college and embarking on their own careers and lives. Ideally, this is the time of my life to put my ducks in a row for when the day comes when I will return to working full time again. Instead of enjoying the season I’m in now, I worry about what if this or that happens, or what if I don’t get the job I want. I wish I could think more like the fisherman and less like the businessman!
The flip side of being content, at least for me, is the “Someday” trap. Filled with apathy and no commitment to a goal, the Someday trap puts all my dreams in future tense. I will finish my novel…someday. When I’m in Content mode, it’s easy to put off the small things that make Someday possible, like building and promoting a blog. This is where discernment comes in, and when I have to question the motives behind my goals. It’s a delicate balancing act—as well as the reason why I need deadlines! It’s when I have to ask myself what small step I can do today to make my Someday happen, you know—SOMEDAY.
So for today, I will be patient and content with this season in my life, with only one eye on the future. Because we should enjoy the here and now…and everyone needs a Someday.
Comments on: "Is it Apathetic to be Content?" (3)
I got lost with in a circle of thoughts there… That’s what I enjoy about reading your columns Amy, & especially the thought provoking ones. Philosophical thinking usually leaves me weary, and no where! I loved those types of courses in college, that most students hated. Leads my dominant Type B personality traits to sprout, choking out my healthy Type A traits…
You brought up so many points that I have seen, thought, and felt! This was my thought circle (Advance apologies for lengthiness)
I’ve often wondered if I am the person I used to be? If I ever was that person in my memory’s, or will I ever know “who” I am? Will I even KNOW if or when “IT” happens? Reaching the Someday? I have been filled with self doubt for all my untrieds, incompletes, and self perceived failures. I equated my self worth by other people’s standards or abilities.
But AM I a complete failure because I am on a different path by choice and/or neccessity for this “now”? I’ve come to the same “reality” at different seasons, for 52 years.
I have to be content to be the BEST “me” I can be today. I may need to restart myself every day, maybe more than once. I’ll continue to pray for receiving, and trust God will continue refilling the “extra” only he can provide. This way, I am able to help others as I live life while it is happening!
I am happy to be content and content to be happy.
Oh, Amy….if you only knew how soon the time will come when “someday” will have come and gone. Just be happy in the “someday” that has come to you at this moment, and enjoy every minute of it. (I kinda think that you do that without being told)
[…] you’ve read my blog before, you may remember a post I did a while back questioning whether or not contentedness was a form of apathy. I still don’t think it is—I think it’s healthy to be content. But here lately it’s been […]