As Americans, when it comes to the matter of happiness, we love to refer to the second paragraph and first sentence of the Constitution: “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.” What a powerful declaration! I can’t read that without a surge of thankfulness coursing its way through my soul. Only those who have known true freedom can begin to appreciate the hard-fought liberties that were secured for us by our Founding Fathers and the men and women who have stood against tyranny and enslavement to hand succeeding generations this priceless gift.
Those who wrote these words, who crafted their intent so that future generations would understand their meaning, were wise beyond our imagining. Our Founding Fathers knew all too well the dangers inherent in a nation whose government ruled the people with a heavy hand, crushing the spirit and the will of the governed. These men were determined to provide this new nation with an avenue of freedom that should not be interfered with by an overbearing government. Thus, America became the “Home of the Free.”
But what about happiness? Is this a right for all Americans? Or is it that some in our society have missed out on the intent of the Constitution?
Happiness, by definition, means, “good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.” Such expressions pertaining to happiness are nebulous, meaning they have a different implication depending on the individual and their life experience. The God-given Rights of Life and Liberty, on the other hand, are a bit easier to agree on because they are more specific.
Life – you are alive! You are cognizant of your existence. The Founders believed that life was indeed given by God, and every individual had a right to that life.
Liberty – you are to be free to live your life as you choose. The Founders would hope you would live your life in such a way as to honor God. But whichever way a person selects in living their life, you should have the liberty to do so within the bounds of law, morality and decency.
All too often today we see laws being legislated that have more to do with trying to make people happy – which is contrary to the intent of the Founding Fathers. It is because you have the right to Life and Liberty that you can then pursue those paths in life that you believe would make you happy. This also means a person can pursue a path of personal destruction as well. This is sadly typified by those in the entertainment industry. Case in point: Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and tragically this past week, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
There was an excellent article by Jeffrey Kluger on the pursuit of happiness in TIME Magazine last summer. The following is an excerpt: “Pilgrims to the New World were a self-selected group. Not every person suffering under the whip of tyranny or the crush of poverty had the temperamental wherewithal to pick up, pack up and travel to the other side of the globe and start over. Those who did were looking for something--pursuing something--and happiness is as good a way of defining that goal as any. Once that migrant population started raising babies on a new continent, the odds were that the same questing spirit would be bred into or at least taught to the new generations as well.
“And it has been. It took us 100 years to settle the continent and less than 200 to become the world's dominant power. We snatched and grabbed and extracted, yes, but we gave back too. Happy people don't just accumulate fortune; they invent things--the lightbulb, the telegraph, the movie camera, the airplane, the mass-produced automobile, the polio vaccine, the personal computer, social media, the iPhone. And happy people are also generous people, rebuilding other nations (hello, Marshall Plan) and donating to charities; the U.S. still ranks No. 1 among all nations in per capita charitable giving.” Read more: The American Pursuit of Happiness - TIME http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2146449,00.html#ixzz2smm6CD52
Hmmmm. Happy people give back. Happy people are generous people.
Happiness, then, is not a Right. It is a choice.
Are you happy?