Friday, March 5, 2010

Pursuit of Happiness, Bah Humbug

When the founding fathers enunciated our rights as “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” they weren’t thinking clearly. Nobody pursues Happiness. It’s not a leaf blowing in the wind, or a rabbit you can chase. Happiness is an interpretation of circumstances.

Any given situation can be interpreted different ways. I love gardening and getting my hands dirty. My neighbor hates dirt so much she had her back yard cemented over. Happiness is not a generic like Life and Liberty.

The FFs did not pursue Happiness. They pursued what they valued. They valued Life, Liberty and Capitalism. They valued Independence, Education, Good Food.. They valued Good Discussions, Political Connections, The Life of the Mind. But aside from the Declaration of Independence – NOTE Independence, not Happiness, they don’t talk much about happiness.

I suggest this is because they were happy. They were doing what they loved. I’m happy when I’m doing what I love, whether it is chatting with friends, planning a lesson, fixing a problem, planting seeds, cooking a new dish, exercising or sitting quietly with my husband.

When the FFs said “Pursuit of Happiness” they may have meant, “doing what you enjoy.” I know – the poetic ring of “Life, Liberty, and Doing What You Enjoy” leaves much to be desired.

It’s more than Enjoy. It’s doing what you think is important, Doing what you think is worth doing. We all enjoy feeling that we have spent our time well.

The most common complaint I hear (aside from aches and pains) is “I wasted my time.”
How about “Life, Liberty, and Satisfying Use of Time”?

Satisfying use of time requires thought and planning. Thought and Planning are what the FFs put into writing the Declaration and the Constitution. I think it’s fair to guess that they enjoyed the process as well as the results.

Pursuing Happiness is trying to catch the results without the necessary preceding processes. It’s not possible. The FFs should have known better.


  1. That is actually an EXCELLENT post!!! Very well thought out and I entirely agree even though I do not live in the US. I was going to do a similar post about the whole pursuit of Happiness at some point. When I do I will link to your post. Thanks!!

  2. Lilly, when you do your column, please post again with a link so other readers can find you, and so I can read it. Thank you.