Thursday, April 2, 2009

The pursuit of happiness?

Its been a particularly good day, even up to the last week or two. I'm happy right now. In fact, I'm REALLY happy. Its not even to rebel against all the doom and gloom of life today. Everywhere I turn it seems like there is something wanting to steal my happiness. I don't want to let it go though. I think I subconsciously decided to put a Patronus Charm around myself so that all these Dementors couldn't have their way with me. Sorry I just got done watching that particular HP installment so that was the first comparison that popped into my brain. As I've walked through my happy days recently I've thought about the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". I used to use that phrase a lot when asked how I was doing or what I was thinking about and didn't feel particularly inclined to share. But that's just me. I'm a smart a** that way sometimes.

When I think of pursuit I think of running after something and it implies a certain degree of exhaustion something implies to me that the "pursuit" is always there, seemingly just beyond our grasp....sorta like a treadmill, running and running and never getting anywhere.

Is this what Thomas Jefferson intended when he wrote those words? I've thought quite a bit about it lately and I really don't believe so. On their own, these are great and powerful happy words. However, I think that in order for you to see where I am going with this you need to consider it on the basis of it being a family of words, not the individuals themselves. Life and liberty are the parents and the little rugrat is the pursuit of happiness. The definition of life is pretty self-explanatory. You have to be breathing first of all in order for this to work. My Random House dictionary tells me that the definition of liberty is "freedom from arbitrary or despotic government" or "freedom from captivity and confinement". Even though this is coming unhinged in today's society it still more or less exists. So we're alive and we're free for the most part. Good for us. So now that we are alive and free, what comes next? The "pursuit" of happiness which, I believe, is a product of being alive and at liberty to choose the path and station which we believe will give us the peace and prosperity that we desire. I believe that that is what our Creator had in mind for us and that is what I believe Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote this. The problem is that somehow we the people have screwed it up. Somehow we have turned, as a society, toward thinking that happiness is external so therefore it needs to be "pursued". In other words, we have actually taken Thomas Jefferson literally, way too literally. We have learned to think that happiness comes in the form of other people or things. So that automatically sets us up for problems. Not only are we denying our inner arsenal and capacity for real love and happiness but we do endlessly crazy things like working at jobs we hate, spending money we don't have to buy things that we don't realize won't fill the need, all the way down to inflicting violence on ourselves and others. Most of us are no longer acquainted with our power because we as a society gave it up for whatever reason. Everything we need to create real and lasting freedom, happiness and to stop giving away our power is right here within mad grasping or treadmills involved.