Thursday, October 9, 2014

The pursuit of happiness

The "pursuit of happiness" has become a central focus for our culture.

Hardly any other "developed" (industrialized) people group even considers "happiness" to be anything but temporary, and most don't think of it as any sort of deep value.

Why is it so important to us, here in the "land of the free"?

Could it be the fact that our national declaration of independence declares it to be a fundamental, undeniable right bestowed by The Creator, Himself, coequal with life and liberty?

To me, what's strange is how much importance has been placed on a few words inserted as a compromise--a substitute for the original wording with which some founders disagreed.

I grew up believing, as many did, what my father told me, which may be apocryphal, though I have seen it in a number of sources since;  specifically, that the words replaced by the vague "pursuit of happiness" were "private property," a concept government holds in low regard to this day, quite possibly as a result of the omission.

Words are the tools we use to effect ideas.  They have inchoate power as well as derived power--power shaped and driven by semantics, syntax, connotation, and what we call meaning.

The Word--the Bible--espouses a number of values and goals for us.  God's law tells us what our aspirations should be, and what we can expect of life (and God), and what the rewards of those values and aspirations are.
(The original languages of both Testaments were very precise, pictographic tongues anchored by a sophisticated written syntax.)

There is, for believers, the promise of joy.  Joy is an effect of faithfulness to certain values.  Though we receive joy as a blessing, we don't pursue it for its own sake.

The book of Ecclesiastes speaks directly to the vanity--the futility--of trying to produce or find happiness.  We see, repeated throughout the book, encouragement to do what we can today, enjoy our refreshment and rest, then repeat the process in contentment, a very different idea than happiness.

Want to become discontented?  Pursue happiness.

Who insisted so adamantly on the change of wording that has helped shape our sad, self-centered carnival?  Which founding "fathers" were so offended by the thought of humble citizens being granted, by God, a right to own land, that they felt it necessary to offer this unhelpful phrase in its place?

(Dana Carvey/Church Lady voice) Could it be Satan?

Of course, if happiness is your goal, you'll do better if you don't believe there really is a devil.

Humans have a common enemy most don't even admit exists.
He's been working to destroy us from The Beginning, and doing very well, especially in these latter days.  He delights that the most capable nation on Earth is pursuing happiness rather than the joy offered by You Know Who.

Go ahead.  You have the right.