“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”, the famous phrase crafted from the Declaration of Independence, speaks to what our country values as unalienable rights for all it’s citizens.
At a glance, I agree wholeheartedly, and am thankful to live under such a declaration. What worries me today, however, is how these values are defined and lived out in our ethno/ego-centric culture. Is my right to ‘life’ more important than another’s? Does my ‘liberty’ infringe on, or deprive someone else of theirs? These are important questions, and way too complex to address thoroughly on a simple blog post. However, as we embark headlong into that feeding frenzy we call the ‘holiday season’, I would like to make some observations regarding my third unalienable right, the ‘pursuit of happiness’.
How does one describe objectively a feeling that is so subjective?! Indeed, everyone has a unique answer to the question, “What makes you happy?”, but to cut to the chase, lets address the tendencies in our culture, and the voices who seek to define happiness for you and me.
I would argue that our society is progressively, fragmented and disingenuous. Families are broken or disengaged, the nebulous, spiritual climate espouses relative truth and an irrelevant God, and genuine community is exchanged for random posts and tweets, all of which creates an emotional, spiritual vacuum for individuals bereft of true happiness.
Meanwhile, the ‘voices’ keep telling us ‘you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny’ but don’t fret, we have the solutions to all your problems. We can change your identity, fill the vacuum, give you meaning, make you pretty, sell you happiness etc. etc.
Bridled by their deception, we are led down the corridors of consumerism like sheep to the slaughterhouse. We lift our “two for the price of one”, goblets and sing a round of ‘don’t worry, be happy’ while toasting the mammon holidays of ‘black Friday’ and ‘cyber Monday’, enjoying the temporary, euphoric moment, only to awaken the next day with happiness hangover.
All facetiousness aside, is it not true that, while independence declares that I can pursue happiness, consumerism suggests I can buy it, and popular thinking proclaims I’m entitled to it?!
I declare, however, that true happiness is not stocked on a shelf or purchased on eBay, or owed to me by some authoritative body. It is existential in nature, and is more likely to be experienced through selfless acts than selfish pursuits.
In a world woefully short on unalienable rights, let’s look beyond ourselves and pursue life, liberty and happiness, for those who have no such independence. You never know, it just might ‘make you happy’!