Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Is happiness the same as contentment? I ask the pig.

I was pondering this in recent days, I guess I had read something in a headline that stuck in my head, and as I lay in bed–the place I do a lot of my creative thinking-I thought to myself, What is the difference between contentment and happiness?

So I turned to Nature, as I usually do, for answers. And who else better to go to in Nature than Earnest the Pig?

We sat in his hut later that day, I had brought him some raw eggs-he loves those.

“Earnest would you rather be happy, or content?” I asked, getting right to the point.

He did not hesitate, “Content. Happiness is fleeting,” he said.

Interesting point, I thought.

Paco the Poet was on the other side of the fence, lying about as he often does in morning. Being a donkey poet, he is always interested in discussing language.

“When I’m told at breakfast that I will get graham crackers for a late afternoon snack, it makes me happy. But after I get my crackers and have eaten them, I am content inside for hours and hours,” Paco said.

“Happiness is driven by your brain. Contentment is in your heart,” Earnest said.

We all sat silently, well, except for the loud smacking and chewing as Earnest the pig ate his eggs, mouth open. It is one way he is not very gentlemanly-he eats with his mouth open.

“So, happiness is active, and contentment is quiet?” I asked.

More loud chewing. 

“When you get happy about something, there is always something that can distract you and take it away. But contentment lives deep inside you. Happiness has to come from the outside,” said the pig.

“I feel very content sitting here, in the morning sun, with both of you. But it makes me happy to see your faces too,” I said.

“You can be content, but sad. And you can be happy, and not content,” said Earnest. “Contentment doesn’t come from things. And that’s why nobody can take it away from you.”

“Mrs. Dunn, would you like to share some graham crackers with us?” asked Paco.

And I did. I walked around all day, content. When I went to town to do chores, I looked at all the people walking by and I thought how powerful it felt that nobody could take my contentment from me, because it was in my heart. The happiness I felt as I opened the box of fresh crackers was fleeting, but the contentment I gained from eating them with my two friends was still there.

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