Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
The Declaration of Independence lists "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as inalienable rights, which are believed to be basic human rights endowed by the Creator.
This is no doubt revolutionary. And I love that our forefathers had the vision to include them. There are very few democracies that include such rights.
But like most things, I decided (given the proximity of celebrating these rights) I would question them for sake of some great discussion…
Life, I get it. Without life, everything else crumbles.
Liberty comes from the Latin word libertas, which means “unbounded, unrestricted or released from constraint.” This one is more ambiguous, but I get it.
The document seems to be moving somewhere. Life leads to liberty, and liberty to the pursuit of happiness.
Now comes the tricky one I'd really like to discuss: the pursuit of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness can mean vastly different things to vastly different people. And whereas it is surely a good idea to build a nation upon, the forefathers went a step further to deem it an unalienable right endowed by the Creator.
Now I don't want to make this into a theological discussion as to whether it's God's goal to bring us happiness, or even the pursuit of said happiness. Rather, I'd like to discuss the unquenchable and dangerous slope "happiness" can be in a consumer culture.
I believe that more than anything, America is a consumer culture. We consume everything from products to entertainment, faith to resources, and even relationships. It is the nature of our beast.
The danger of happiness being a basic right in a consumer culture is that what brings me happiness today, tomorrow can fade, and I will forever be in pursuit of the newest, shiniest, and best. The Jones' will always have more, and will feed my need to pursue more and more.
I can imagine a time when the promise of life and liberty brought happiness, but I fear that day has long passed. Even the provision of "daily bread" seems to be less than adequate for one's happiness to be quenched today; because now, I have the need to amass a storehouse of future daily bread's, should mine run out.
What do you think of these unalienable rights?
How does the pursuit of happiness affect you as a basic human right endowed by the Creator?