Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Pursuit

The U.S. Constitution guarantees us life, liberty and THE PURSUIT of happiness.

It does not guarantee us the attainment of happiness. That is for each individual to achieve. And therefore, there is no guarantee for constant and eternal happiness either. Well, at least not in the constitution and not on earth.

So it occurs to me that this may be a major problem with American culture. We’ve been taught through fairy tales and Disney movies that what we’re shooting for is “happily ever after.”

Ever after…

Does that mean forever?

I submit that happiness is a destination, not necessarily part of the journey. I also suggest that there may even be various levels of happiness for us to attain. When one journey ends, it is time for another to begin.

But let’s take a moment to examine this idea of constant bliss. The human being is not meant to experience endless happiness. We’re not even built to handle happiness for an extended period of time.

When I tickle Melody, and I do tickle her, she laughs really hard. But ultimately, I have to stop. Why? Because her sides hurt. She can’t continue to laugh forever. It’s painful!

The sexual orgasm is perhaps considered the pinnacle of ecstasy. But if you had one for hours on end, your organs would hurt. You can’t do it, nor are you meant to.

But increasingly, we seem to be obsessed with constantly being happy. People leave marriages because they’re “not happy.” People leave jobs because they’re “not happy.” People abandon their kids because they’re “not happy.” Where is the endurance? Where is the joy at achieving a goal, even if you didn’t feel like striving for it at the time?

Half of what I do, I wouldn’t do if I did it based on how I feel. Do I always feel like getting up and going to work in the morning? Family obligations? Disciplining my child? Changing a diaper for crying out loud?

No. But I do these things anyway. Why? Because there is a goal to be achieved: A paycheck as a reward for my reliable work. A blessing to my family for putting them first. An offspring who ultimately knows the difference between right and wrong. And after toiling through the swampy guacamole burrito, a clean bottom and fresh surrounding air for all to enjoy! Each of these results can and usually do elicit happiness for all parties involved.

In the end, it is the pursuit of happiness that is the important thing. It is the journey. We seek to follow our dreams. We seek to better our world and ourselves. Sure, we’ll attain happiness now and again. We may even enjoy entire seasons of happiness. But all good things must come to an end. We may even be happy as we set off on the next journey. But we can’t expect to be happy one hundred percent of the time. And it is dangerous to maintain that expectation.

We need to accept that there will be times of unhappiness and when that time comes, it is time to persevere…to journey onward…to overcome the circumstances and face another day.

We need to be content in the knowledge that we can and will achieve happiness on occasion and we must relish that time.

For it does not last forever.

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