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Contentment by Joseph Edward Southall, 1861-1944

Copied from J. Ruth Gendler’s book The Book of Qualities (I love Gendler’s unique way of looking at and describing Life).

Contentment has learned how to find out what she needs to know.  Last year she went on a major housecleaning spree.  First, she stood on her head until all the extra facts fell out.  Then, she discarded about half her house.  Now, she knows where every thing comes from — who dyed the yarn dark green and who wove the rug and who built the loom, who made the willow chair, who planted the apricot trees.  She made the turquoise mugs herself with clay she found in the hills beyond her house.

When Contentment is sad, she takes a mud bath or goes to the mountains until her lungs are clear.  When she walks through an unfamiliar neighborhood, she always makes friends with the local cats.


from The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler

Harmony doesn’t seem extraordinary until you have known him for a while.  He knows how to be gentle, and such gentleness is surprisingly powerful.  The silence around him is lyrical.  If I sit in his kitchen in the late afternoon and drink ginger tea, by the time I am ready to go home the contradictions inside my head are no longer shouting at me and trying to tear each other apart.  He gives me space to be my whole self.

It may be hard to believe it now, but there was a time when Harmony was afraid to leave his house.  I am not sure about the whole story.  In college he was an outstanding athlete, and he won many prizes.  One summer when he was training intensively, he became dissatisfied with the whole set-up.  Torn apart inside, he could no longer keep his balance.  He alienated many of his friends with his tirades about hypocrisy and ugliness.  Frustrated with people, he took long walks through the neighboring countryside.  He found sanity in the geometry of the old buildings and started dreaming about how to organize spaces in which he could feel more comfortable, thus stumbling into the profession of architecture through a back door.  He has learned how to design rooms which evoke different aspects of our selves.  Although he is a meticulous architect, he is no longer fussy and alienated.  He can go anywhere now.  Simply by being himself, he alters the current in the field around him.