"Just as soon as I get my work done, I can relax." I sure know that one! Dad gave me that tape when I was a kid, and now that I'm in the second half-centiry of my life it's still playing. "Just as soon as I earn enough money I can spend time with my kids." I've heard enough men lament at men's gatherings abouthow much they lost in life, because of that thinking.
This is part of what Johnson and Ruhl call our "just as soon as" culture. We can't have contentment now, but "just as soon as ..." You get the picture. They quip, "'Just As Soon As" should be priknted on dollar bills, replacing "In God We Trust"' as the great American slogan. What a painful way to live!"
My first wife's father said, in all seriousness, that if only he could have a Rolls Royce, he would be content in life. Johnson and Ruhl echo the theme Robert Bly develops so well in The Sibling Society. "Madison Avenue understands our hunger for contentment," they say, "and uses it as the basis for modern advertising. Soup, automobiles, life insurance--any and all things are sold with the promise either of the satisfaction they bring or the discomfort they will help us avoid. ... We are [ulled by desires and pushed by fears. Madison Avenue and the mass media are powerful purveyors of discontent."
So what is contentment, and how do we find it? Johnson and Ruhl explore this theme brilliantly, through the use of the story of King Lear, myths and stories from other cultures, and anectodes from their own lives.
"Following your bliss" is not a call to narcissism and getting what you want. It is pursuing the rapture that resides at the core of your suffering. ... A friend recently referred to a "positive" event in his life tas proof that God exists. It was pointed out, perhaps injudiciously, that his faith in God was very thin if he could find the divine only in experiences that he liked.