A few years ago, I saw a movie titled Midnight in Paris. It was about a nostalgic screenwriter and aspiring novelist, played by Owen Wilson, who is visiting Paris with his fiancée and her parents. One night, while walking alone through the city streets, he encounters a group of strange and yet, familiar, revelers, who take him along with them for a night of adventure.
Wilson’s character soon realizes these nightly adventures are somehow taking him back to the 1920’s, which he considers to be the golden age in which to live. There, he spends time with some of the cultural heroes of the past, while becoming more dissatisfied with the present day, which he returns to each morning. The irony of the movie is that Wilson’s character meets people in the 1920’a that are dissatisfied with the era they live in and wish to go back even further in history.
Dissatisfaction. Unrest. Searching for the latest and greatest. Or wishing away today looking at yesterday…or tomorrow. In this age of bigger is better and faster isn’t fast enough, is it any wonder that the word satisfaction has been watered down to use as a slogan for fast food or a new car?
Gerry Rafferty caught the sentiment of dissatisfaction in his song, Baker Street.
This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul
And it’s taken you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now
The dictionary defines the word satisfaction this way: to be content. When I looked up the Latin root, it broke it down to two words, “make” and “enough”. To make enough…but when is enough, enough? How much money do we need? Where do we draw the line?
For each of us, it is personal decision. But it’s one that Jim and I have been working through these last few months. I often joked that if a robber came into our home and tried to steal anything of value, he’d probably feel sorry for us and leave us whatever cash he had in his wallet. But what if someone in need were to come in? What if someone from a third world country, who didn’t have shelter or clean water or food for their family?
If everything we had stored in our attic were to disappear tomorrow, how would it impact our lives? There are a few items that are sentimental in value, but most of it would be missed by no one. I have things that I have “collected” over the years that sit on a shelf and gather dust. I can’t remember the last time I had them out, spend anytime looking at them or enjoying them. I walk past them daily and am barely aware of their existence. The sense of satisfaction that I had when I bought them disappeared long ago.
Of course, there are a good many things that bring me satisfaction. Spending time with my family and friends, working in my garden, writing, studying God’s word and just spending time in His presence. And at times, dissatisfaction can be a good thing. It can make you aware of what’s missing in your life and, hopefully, move you to make a needed change.
For us, that change is coming in the form of simplifying. Removing clutter from our lives. This doesn’t just mean our possessions; removing sights and sounds that clutter our eyes and minds is a big part of it too. Finding a balance in our lives. St. Benedict stresses the importance of the balance between study, work and leisure.
Are you satisfied? What is it that brings you satisfaction? How long does it last? Is it something that improves your life or the lives of those around you? If it were gone tomorrow, would it have a lasting impact on your life?
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:19-21