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All men created equal

The United States Declaration of Independence asserts that ‘all men are created equal… with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’.

Let me take that last phrase, borrow from the Apostle Paul, and paraphrase the unstated life philosophy of so many. ‘And now these three remain, Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: but the greatest of these is the pursuit of happiness.’

You hear it all the time: ‘I just want to be happy’. ‘I just want my kids to be happy’. ‘As long as your happy, that’s all that matters’. The premise: Get happiness and you’ve got the best this world has to offer.

Sounds nice, but I don’t think it’s true. Social commentator Peggy Noonan sees it differently.

I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated – that, in a way, life is overrated. We have lost somehow a sense of mystery – about us, our purpose, our meaning, our role.

Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generation of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness.

The reason: if you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness – if that is what you believe, then you are more than disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are in despair.