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…
–The Declaration of Independence
A Different World
This holiday I can’t help but think that the men who hotly debated the content of that formidable document and ultimately passed it 231 years ago were living in an entirely different world than we are today.
There are differences over and above the obvious technological changes. But just to help get your mind around how different the world is now, let’s do an imagination exercise.
Try to imagine how different your world would be without any of these things: cell phones, internet, email, computers, cars, trucks, electricity, air conditioning, refrigeration, television, antibiotics, anesthesia, contact lenses, air travel, plastic, synthetic materials, self propelled ships, artificial lighting, recorded music, radio, mass transportation, telephones, the list seems endless.
But living without all of those things would make for a radically different world to be sure.
A Different Worldview
When I read through the vast treasure troves of writings these great men left behind I can’t help but see that in addition to living in a completely different world, they also had a very different worldview than we do today.
The differences in understanding are legion. (Can you imagine the government today creating a significant political document today that said people “are endowed by their Creator” with anything? It would be a mess!)
One of the differences has to do with our understanding of happiness.
The great minds of the revolution such as Jefferson, Adams, Mason, and Washington saw happiness as something that was to be pursued. The burden of realizing happiness rested squarely on the individual. They felt the government’s role was simply to get out the way of the people’s opportunity to pursue their own happiness.
What a contrast with our culture today that sees happiness as something we are entitled to. If we are unhappy we’re quick to shout that it is someone else’s fault. Sometimes we blame the government. Or maybe it is our employer, or our family, or our circumstances that we target to change so we’ll be happier.
We’d rather fix the blame than fix the problem.
I suspect that whole mindset would be borderline laughable to those men of old.
Take Ownership of Your Happiness
This Independence Day, how about deciding to make a change?
Rather than focusing on what we can blame for our unhappiness, why don’t we start thinking about ways we can pursue our own happiness in spite of our circumstances?
As long as we give the responsibility for our happiness to someone else in this world, we will never get there. We’ll just be holding onto false hope and will be chronically frustrated.
The choice is ours. Actively engage in the pursuit of happiness, or sit back and complain how messed up things are.