“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.”
As a child, I was surprised when I saw this line in the Declaration of Independence. “The pursuit of happiness” is a God-given right granted to all? It seemed frivolous I suppose, yet there it was in an official founding-document of the United States of America. Not sacrifice, not achievement, not productivity – just “happiness”. Who am I to argue? If they bothered to include it, I guess chasing happiness is a worthy endeavor.
Perhaps using the United States as a model, I should begin by declaring my independence from unhappiness?
I, therefore, in solidarity with the United States of America, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of my intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of my autonomy, solemnly publish and declare, that I am, and of right ought to be a pursuer of happiness; that I am absolved from all allegiance to unhappiness, and that all connection between me and a sad state of affairs, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a pursuer of happiness, I have full power to conclude peace, contract alliances with the delightful, establish comfort, and to do all other acts and things which a pursuer of happiness may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, I pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.
But how does one actually pursue happiness? By fulfilling whims and wants? Completing life goals? Through deep spiritual practice? What is the path? How will I know if I’m heading in the right direction? Does it take experimentation through trial & error? Is it an achievable objective?
Ultimately, I think happiness is a state-of-mind cultivated through mental-discipline – it boils down to focusing on “happy stuff” while completely ignoring “unhappy stuff”. But doing something so drastic requires a compatible perspective – reality itself must be made malleable. “Anything is possible” must be the mantra. And when that finally feels true, the doors of happiness open wide.