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The Pursuit of Happiness

May 29, 2010

Linda Hesthag Ellwein


I was invited to join a women’s online discussion group on Facebook by Linda Hesthag Ellwein with some women in Idaho.  (She has a wonderful photographer website, check it out!)  One of the topics is about happiness and the notion of our personal responsiblity in finding it.  I think about happiness frequently, not only because I love it, but also in the context of the economic plight our country is in.  There are so many different colored threads woven into this broad topic, all of which bear strongly on the quality of our daily lives.  

We discussed the idea that personal happiness is a matter of choice and that we are the responsible parties for maintaining that state for ourselves.  It is not that we happen upon a happy state, or find a thing that makes us happy, rather, we can choose to focus on and highlight those attributes in situations that make us feel good.  One could even say that it is a matter of habit.  Don’t you find yourself sometimes just ragging on about the negative in some situations when you could instead say something good or nothing at all?  Thumper’s mother in the movie Bambi knew and her lessons are as true today as they were 5o years ago.  But, the fact that we all don’t go around seeking out the positive aspects of our life encounters, suggests that human nature is perhaps not about finding the happy state.  That is where the self-discipline part comes in, and haven’t we heard about lessons such as this from the time that Adam and Eve ate the apple? 

photo by Elisabet


I wrote a piece about using the word hate (Love, not Hate-in the archives) and I believe more than ever that using the h-word freely is one more step toward allowing ourselves to let the negative come knocking at our personal doors.  How does this relate to our duty as American Citizens?  The Declaration of Independence asserts the importance and high value of having the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Yet, somehow this phrase seems to have morphed onto Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Monetary Wealth.   This sly switch that feeds into the same vein of human weakness as seeing the negative side of things, has not at all created an environment in which the American Dream can be realized for the average citizen.  It moves our attention from personal satisfaction with the splendors of what we have and experience, to the need to have more things.  Yet our economy is built on the almighty purchase, so what do we do?  Do we keep spending and working to spend so that the economy thrives or do we walk into the woods with worn shoes and find bliss?  Is there something in the middle?  

I don’t have the answers, but I do believe that we can reclaim the dreams of our heart.  Perhaps the rich only need to have several millions in profit instead of several billion, perhaps our society will find another way to keep the economy strong, one in which we don’t have to buy a ton of junk to do our part.    

As  with all great works of art in progress, our society is growing and changing.  It is up to each of us to levy our opinion, our vote, our voice into the great mix that comprises our diverse nation.  Do we want that voice to promote unity and strength, shout out values that are true to our hearts, that good experiences with our fellow-man and animals of the earth are the food of life, or do we let others decide what brings us the happiness that our forefathers so valued?  If any inspiration is needed to see the glory that is ours for the taking, all one has to do is step outside before dawn, watch darkness give way to the first moments of light and know that the day that is beginning can be lived in any way that we choose.

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