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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just Let Me Make You Happy

Who would dare argue that Americans hold dear the privileges afforded by the Declaration of Independence, especially the phrase largely borrowed from John Locke: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The words, probably penned by Thomas Jefferson ring with freedom and truth. But, twentieth century English physicist C. P. Snow would have us consider his words: "The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase; if you pursue happiness, you'll never find it." Though ironic in tone, Snow's quote gives us insight into that all-elusive American dream of obtaining contentment. To merely "pursue" happiness does not denote its possession. For example, when the police are in a hot pursuit of criminals, the criminals are yet to be caught and detained. Only when the police capture the lawbreakers does pursuit end and arrest occur that allows justice to reign supreme. It seems everyone is in hot pursuit of happiness these days. How many of us have actually attained this fortunate feeling as a permanent state of being? Signs are everywhere that many people just are not very happy, yet they value happiness akin to love, health, and liberty. Maybe "pursuit" is the only guarantee given in our Declaration for very good reasons. Can you imagine a nation full of citizens being forever happy about whatever in the world makes each of them truly happy? Chaos, disorder, and hedonism would surely increase as these self-centered individuals gain control. I think it's quite natural to take heart in the chase of those things that give us happiness, full well knowing many of them lie just beyond our reach. After all, as a certain object of happiness becomes commonplace, won't other yearnings emerge? Witness the sports players or movie actors who possess all the money they could possibly need and who still find they lack contentment. A full-time, blissful state of happiness seems like a worthwhile goal, but I think it may be more of a dream for most of us. I catch most of mine in bursts and flurries and attempt to duplicate circumstances conducive to prolonging my happy feelings. If I meet someone who appears a little too happy, either I send up a red flag or I pay close attention to the cause of their continual joy. Without pursuit and even failure to attain bliss, we couldn't experience the blues and the lessons provided by certain unhappy events. Our perfect lives, though seemingly fulfilled, would lack emotional maturity, the ability to deal with life's misfortunes. So, I think another question begs an honest answer in degrees of approval or disapproval. This question seems so trite, "Are you really happy?" To what extent and in what portion of our lives does this popular question deserve an answer? Maybe, the better question is, "Are you really happy about _____? Fill in a specific answer. I hope everyone is happy, at least happy in knowing that struggling and enjoying are both essential parts of a real existence.
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