Thomas Jefferson wrote about the sacred and undeniable truth that all men are created equal and independent. And that from this equal creation inherent and inalienable rights are derived, among which are the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness. What a peculiar game played by us all. A race to an imaginary finish line. Everyone is running while the line is always receding. It seems to be a cruel joke played by the universe that all things worth pursuing are elusive by nature. Happiness, love, comfort, being remembered. But then again, all in life is fleeting, and what was there a moment ago will be gone in the next.
“They say you can’t really remember pain, remembering only the fact of it, not the precise way it feels. Maybe the same thing’s true of happiness.” William Barton
The heroin addict shows us that happiness in and of itself is not to be desired. It seems that what is essential is the pursuit, and the fleeting moments of happiness are nothing but a side-effect of this pursuit.
Aldous Huxley showed us that a brave new world, a world in which all people are happy all the time, is not to be desired. I think what is true for worlds is true for individuals. The question remains, however. What should be pursued?
“Happiness in the ordinary sense is not what one needs in life, though one is right to aim at it. The true satisfaction is to come through and see those whom one loves come through.” E. M. Forster
And if ordinary happiness is not to be pursued, what should take its place instead? Is there such a thing as true happiness? And if there is, what is it?
I don’t have answers to these questions. Not tonight. What I can answer, at least partly, is what I would rather have than ordinary happiness: genuine experience. The real world, not the brave new one. Water, not heroin. Meaning, not soul-crushing drudgery.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi
Thinking, saying and doing meaningful things. Maybe this is my pursuit of happiness.