Contentment is a virtue in danger of extinction in this restless age. The material world is glutted with things. Science, progress and civilisation have produced, for the use and pleasure of man, commodities which have become the badges of pride, the insignia of social position. Man's needs are few but his wants are many. No sooner is one thing obtained than the markets offer some new object which catches the eye and that also must be added to the accumulated possessions; displayed with pride often to the discomfort or envy of neighbours who feel inferior without this latest gadget or piece of luxury.
Few dare be poor, out of fashion, gadgetless in an age of affluence, of bright outward show and scientific progress. Things may bring a fleeting pleasure, a temporary satisfaction, a glow of pride to their owners but they do not bring that serenity of mind that is above the fret and strain of the competitive life endeavouring to keep up appearance or aiming to amass more and more goods and money.
Poets and philosophers in every age have cherished the ideal of the simple life, with few possessions and few cares. Freedom from worry and anxiety, leisure to loiter and enjoy, to savour the beauty of Nature, of noble living and lofty thought are the real luxuries of life, prized by a discerning few.
"I swear 'tis better", wrote Shakespeare, 'to be lowly born and range with humble livers in content, than to be perked up in a glistening grief and wear a golden sorrow".
To be contented with little is sometimes difficult, with much almost impossible. They are the happiest who find their joys outside of things.
My Lord how full of sweet content
My years of pilgrimage are spent
Where 'ere I dwell, I dwell with Thee
In heaven, in earth, or on the sea.