With Independence Day in the rear view mirror, I am still taken by the most famous sentence in the history of the governance of mankind:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It is a powerful statement filled with meaning for the world and Americans who have lived with it for 243 years. It inspired our country in rebellion, in the Revolution, and in the development of other similarly meaningful documents such as the United States Constitution. It is the core value of our national philosophy and governance.
Our countrymen fought to make it a reality.
What is important to focus on is that the Declaration of Independence recognizes our “unalienable right” to PURSUE happiness, but is silent on the actual attainment of happiness.
The attainment of happiness is left to our own devices as we exercise our other rights — such as free will. I doubt that we Americans — or other citizens of the world similarly inspired — are able to define what makes us happy on a consistent basis.
Two ideas to unpack:
1. My brand of happiness and yours will be uniquely different (though I know that the entire world loves TexMex and Texas BBQ, Hell some things are just universal happiness generators, no?); and ,
2. Our definitions of happiness change over time.
For me, I am happiest when writing, floating in the ocean at 5:00 PM with the sun setting behind me (Atlantic Ocean), driving around with the wind blowing in my hair while piloting a Big Red Car, and when spending time with my family, especially that new granddaughter — My Perfect Granddaughter. [Not all at the same time, of course.]
Here’s the Teaser after a particularly stimulating discussion with her grandfather on the state of the American economy. Sometimes when walking around Forsyth Park in Savannah, Baby Tempe will take a second to reflect on things.
We all define our own brand of happiness. It is a fleeting concept that changes with time, space, age, experience, and wisdom. [Feel free to throw in a few of your own change concepts. It is a free country after all.]
We are free to pursue our own version of happiness, to pursue it with our own vigor and energy. We have that right.
Inherent in that message — the pursuit of happiness — is the recognition that we may never get there. We may never attain our happiness.
It may also turn out that what we thought would make us happy, when lying at our feet, was illusionary or did not deliver on the promise. Material things often disappoint. Status disappoints.
In those instances, we can regroup, recalibrate our definition of happiness, and take off again in pursuit of our “new & improved” definition of happiness.
We have the right to fail and to pursue happiness.
From a business perspective, the United States of America is the greatest country in the world in which to fail — our bankruptcy laws are supportive of failure; they are not deadly. This comes as no surprise when you think about our history — we are a country of pioneers and visionaries.
So, here’s the homework assignment, dear readers. Take a minute in the next few days — preferably while floating in the Atlantic Ocean at 5:00 PM with the sun at your back or while eating some lovely Texas BBQ — and think.
What is your destination?
Wherein lies this happiness you are currently pursuing?
Bon voyage, dear reader. Good luck. God speed. Safe travels. Exercise your unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. Your Big Red Car hopes you get there.