The Pursuit of Happiness

I am sure we all recall the quote from a certain historical document that all humans have the inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Life and liberty are fairly easy to define and I doubt there would be too much debate over their definitions.

Happiness; what the heck is happiness? Happiness is joy. What is joy? Why did the framers of the Declaration of Independence include such an innocuous and, I suspect, relative term as a right of all sentient beings.

Perhaps what is more telling is that it states the pursuit of happiness. Couldn’t they just have left it at happiness? I guess you have to start at point A to get to point B; point B is the state of happiness. I am assuming their idea was that people should be able to take the path, do the activity, and travel the road to the destination called happiness. It is apparent that the journey was key to our founding fathers.

So, from the Christian perspective of the writers, everyone should be able to pursue whatever means and activities they see fit to achieve happiness; a right granted by the ultimate authority, God. Almost 250 years ago, the pursuit of happiness was as relevant as it is today.

I don’t read the newspaper except on Sundays. I don’t watch the news or news channels. I choose to get the information relevant to my personal interests via the internet. Obviously, I use Facebook, but over and above connecting and communicating with “friends”, I enjoy memberships in groups of all types and varieties. Many are centered on spirituality, self improvement, consciousness, technology, humor, society, culture, music, politics, etc.

I also enjoy StumbleUpon and FlipBoard which more or less are web or news aggregation sites tailored to my interests.

Lately, within the last few months, I am seeing more posts, reposts and articles about happiness. I am not imagining it. I pay attention and I am seeing a trend. Obviously the topic of happiness is front of brain for more than a few people in the world.

What does this mean? To me if the focus is on happiness, finding happiness or the pursuit of happiness, perhaps it means people are unhappy. This I find ironically humorous because unhappiness, malaise or dissatisfaction aren’t so hard to define.

Suddenly people are waking up to the idea that despite their best efforts to go with the “program” they are not satisfied. They bought into a program, followed the rules, put in their best efforts and as they move along through the system, they find themselves chugging along with no happiness in sight.

Happiness is apparently elusive.

Myself, I wouldn’t describe myself as Mr. Bubbles. I don’t walk around in an eternal state of bliss. I am more of a Steady Eddie type guy, even keeled. However, I have never been happier in my life, never. I am genuinely happy. To be even blunter about it, when describing my condition to Misty, my wife, I have been moved to tears in describing how happy I am.

What circumstances in my life have changed so dramatically that over the past several years that I can emphatically and genuinely state with enthusiasm that I am happy?

Other than my marriage, not a damn thing has dramatically changed in my physical reality. I still have work issues and stresses. The physical issues of aging. Family issues and concerns with children and other loved ones. Stuff breaking around the house. Car issues. Money issues. General hassles. Normal life stuff.

I am the same as you and you are the same as me.

So what is the deal here? The deal is that, first and foremost, I accept unconditionally what “is” and what has been. I fully accept the reality of every situation and do not waste emotional energy or thoughts on wishing things were anything other than what they actually are. Think about it. Shit goes wrong or something is not to your liking, how much time and energy do you waste grousing or wishing the situation was anything other than what it is?

It is what it is. If it is something you can change, correct, fix or remedy, then do it.

If it something beyond your control, whether in Mother Nature’s, God’s or someone’s else’s control and it cannot be changed, accept it and move on. Do not waste a precious moment of your life banging your head pointlessly against the wall.

Yesterday, any day or any point in time in the past is over. All the mistakes you have made, and I have made plenty, are long gone. All the suffering, real and imagined, has occurred and there is nothing to change that. What it was is what it was. Once again, you can wish all you want, but nothing is going to change. Who cares? It’s done. It’s over. Lessons were learned. Wisdom was gained.

Tomorrow? Take care of today and tomorrow will take care of itself. No amount of worry or anxiety can change the unknowable future. Never sacrifice today, worrying about tomorrow.

I am sure you’ve heard the cliché about how of all the possible negative scenarios or worst possible outcomes imagined, how the vast majority never come to pass. Think about how much energy you’ve burned up worrying about something that never did happen.

I know its hippy dippy but one of my favorite catch phrases is based upon the book, Be Here Now, by Ram Dass. Be here now. Be here in this moment. It is the same concept Eckhart Tolle talks about in his book, The Power of Now. That is to say, the only time we really have and can actually control is this moment, right now. That is all there really is, right now. That is the only place in time that you ever actually are, right here, right now. The past and the future are all projections of the mind. How are you doing right now? I am doing just fine, thank you.

So for me, personally, the pursuit of happiness is simply how you deal with reality; what is. It is about acceptance of circumstance. It is about discernment, knowing what is and what is not within you control. It is about surrendering to this “isness” of the moment. Your attitude determines your altitude.

More important, than these Jedi mind tricks, I choose to define happiness on my own terms and you should too. I am not telling any secrets here, when I say that we all to a large degree are programmed to believe certain things by our parents, families, towns, schools, employers, corporations, advertising, society and culture.

Every one of these and more, have either overtly or covertly tried to influence our thinking. Many of our so called personal ideas of what happiness is or how to avoid unpleasantness or unhappiness aren’t actually our thoughts at all. These concepts are mental implants and we blindly accept them because we are mentally lazy.

You’ve probably seen the meme; go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, etc. That is the path we are told is the best route to go. It is the norm.

Want to be popular, look this way. Want to be the image of success, drive this car. Drink this beer. Live here. Go there. Think this.

What the hell is normal?

You want to be happy, be weird. When enough people think you are strange, you’re doing something right because you are thinking for yourself. You are defining your own terms. You are an independent thinker. Have you noticed how the “rules” change all the time, anyway? Make your own rules.

Don’t break the law, per se. Don’t hurt others. But seriously, do your own thing. It is your life. Do not join the herd. Question group thinking.

Quit comparing you, your life, and your circumstances to others. You are the one and only you. God broke the mold when he made you. You are one of a kind. Other people’s lives and experience have no bearing or meaning on your life.

Do not spend one iota of your mental energy worrying about what other people think of you. Like I tell my kids, everyone else is too busy worrying about what everyone thinks of them to be thinking about you.

Lastly, cut yourself a freaking break. You are human. You do your best, but you are fallible. You are going to make mistakes. It’s ok to slack once in a while. Hell it’s ok to slack all the time; it is your life and you are driving the bus. You are the perfect you, even with the good, the bad and ugly. Love yourself.

I am not sure exactly what happiness is, but I am enjoying my pursuit of it and I have never been happier.

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