Pure happiness

This is my Independence Day thought. A few months ago I commented on the essential identity of the ideas of “property” and “happiness” in America’s Declaration of Independence, as in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” With that lovely phrase Jefferson slid into America’s foundational document Locke’s notion of the God-given right to amass property.

But we all know that happiness and property ownership are not identical. “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” We know some people will experience positive affect (mirth, peace, satisfaction) in spite of their poverty (I Remember Mama), and others, swimming in wealth, take their own lives (“Richard Cory”). In other words, Jefferson took advantage of an etymological, semantic connection for PR effect, but we all know there’s more to happiness, and to America, than private property.

In some cases the concepts actually war with each other. We know that too.

Here’s an observation on these distinctions by Gretchen Rubin, who has devoted an entire blog to what she calls “The Happiness Project.” I recommend exploring others of her posts, too, because she’s a lively, clear writer who gets to the point about something we all are all about. You can subscribe to her by email, in case you think you could use an occasional surprise dose of happiness.


About Greg Bryant

I teach writing and literature at Highland Community College in northeast Kansas.
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