Question: Many people seem to chase after happiness, but confuse happiness with contentment. I believe ‘happiness’ is more of an intense, fleeting feeling, whereas contentment is in itself calmer, but longer lasting, what do you think?
Answer: I admit that I used to use the two expressions in an interchangeable manner, but after reading your question I agree with you. There is something extra, an addition in “happiness”.
I think you described it very precisely, that in happiness there is an emotional “surplus” above “simple” contentment.
We could say that contentment is the sense of fulfilling a need, accomplishing a goal. Happiness is an additional “reward” that comes above fulfilling the right need, accomplishing the right goal.
It is like tuning a radio to different frequencies, and finding a broadcast brings contentment, but only finding the “right” frequency, right broadcast opens up the “fountain of happiness, life”, from which incredible, unprecedented emotions flood us.
We seemingly have many different needs, goals in life and when we fulfill them we receive a sense of contentment. But only when we precisely identify the true need, purpose of our Human existence, and reach, fulfill that, then we receive true, overflowing happiness.
And this is because then this happiness is not our own. What we sense is the “contentment”, joy from Nature’s evolutionary system as a result of its “qualitatively highest creature”, Humanity reaching perfection, justifying its “Crown of Creation” title.