Is there indeed a difference? I make reference to a few great minds throughout history; hopefully the answer will be contained therein.
Firstly, what is happiness?
A wise man once said that "Anger is not an emotion, but merely a reaction to a set of events" (actually it was B) I tend to agree with this. Anger is usually driven by a set of immediate circumstances. Can the same thing be said for happiness? Most certainly.
How many times have you heard it said by people that they "just want to be happy". They'll chase after fruitless pursuits again and again, and while they'll be happy for a time, whatever their pursuit was, they'll be not happy again. Happiness it would seem therefore is a moveable, changeable and highly volatile state almost dependant of the world around.
"Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be." - Abraham Lincoln
I will admit that I can change my moods very easily - sometimes even after a really crappy day at work by jumping into the car on the way home and whacking some cheesy Britpop on the car stereo.
Have my immediate circumstances changed? Absolutely, but the factor is so incredibly minor that it scarcely deserves a diatribe such as this. Mr Lincoln was 100% correct it seems.
What then of contentment? What is that?
In Paul's letter to the church at Philipi he writes this:
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength"
Was he happy? I bet no way! I would have truly sucked to have been in gaol. However, he still writes that he had learned the secret to contentment, whatever the circumstances. Contentment is obviously something which is far more ingrained than mere happiness.
Contentment is knowing one's place in the grand scheme of things. In one sense it is very humbling to know that we are but a speck compare to the God who created the universe from naught, and perhaps that does indeed give a brilliant perspective on the world. Contentment rests in the knowledge that we don't need to outwit, outlast or outplay the competition. In the grand scheme of things, you don't win by chasing after happiness - it's merely a by-product.
One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela
Mr Mandela, where would we be without your wise words?