I have written on my Home page and on a number of posts in this blog that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ is one of my core values. In fact I consider it my most important value. Without it this would seem like a very dark and depressing place, a world in which I’d have little or no prospects of having or achieving any dreams for a better future, an existence without meaning that would likely lead me to do all kinds of self-destructive activities. This is why areas where social conditions make life seem depressing and hopeless, such as in the slums of America and elsewhere, there is so much poverty, unrest, crime and violence. That is why most prisons harden criminals instead of reform them. Poverty simply breeds more poverty and socially destructive activities.
Without the hope to pursue happiness there is no hope for a better future and even prospects of it getting much worst. Though feeling hopeless is just that, a perception, it seems very real. It is like being in a depression and for some it is exactly that. A person in depression cannot be convinced that life has a rosier side. There are those who live in such a depressed environment that they feel that they are hopelessly trapped there no matter how hard one tries to convince them otherwise. It isn’t a rational feeling or experience.
So for me to want to live and be free I need to feel that I have the hope to pursue my dreams. It is what makes me want to get up each morning. It is what motivates me to write blog articles two to three times a week. The pursuit of happiness is even more important than life or liberty. If I think I can do the things I love in a repressed society I can still pursue and perhaps achieve my dreams. That is why prisoners of war often try so hard to break out of their imprisonment. Without such hope they would give up and simply survive or kill themselves if absolutely convinced of no hope of eventual freedom. The pursuit of happiness is what makes me feel hopeful, happy, compassionate, loving, charitable, generous, kind, and occasionally accomplished.
Like many in this country I have dreamed of fame, fortune, and felt the thrill of exploring the unknown since childhood. I’ve never achieved great fame or fortune but I have explored the unknown and made some discoveries and contributions. I cherish the memories of accomplishments with satisfaction though the heightened exhilaration of discovery or accomplishment is only temporary like the joys of a great vacation and their lingering memories. As a child I dreamed of becoming a great scientist. In spite of learning disabilities I went to college and after much struggle eventually achieved my dream of becoming an engineer. In my working career I have made a number of discoveries or significant accomplishments. Most were only recognized by myself as accomplishments, knowing the effort and creativity I put into each one and the ultimate technical achievements I felt I had made. So I have pursued happiness and achieved many of my dreams.
I was fortunate enough to have grown up in a family, culture, and nation which inspired and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I was also fortunate to have the opportunities, fortitude, and determination to want to succeed and to challenge myself to ultimately succeed a couple of times of times far beyond my wildest dreams.
That being said I can well understand how others might not have had the opportunities I had to pursue happiness as I did. I have very often had self doubts as to my ability to achieve any of my dreams. At school I was always on the verge of failure due to learning disabilities I was not aware of at the time. I had very limited reading ability and had a very poor memory. I was always at the bottom of my class at school and had to repeat elementary and high school classes twice. College was likewise a difficult struggle. There were times I felt I would never graduate and that I was too dumb to become an engineer.
So I can well relate to those who grow up in a culture or atmosphere where no one went to college and who were told that it was a waste of time thinking of getting a better education and having a better life. There are many minorities and even white people in this country who live in such oppressive conditions. Often crime seems the only way to make it through life. But this feeling of hopelessness can be changed with some help from the government, organizations, and society to change their perceptions towards hope because there really are other options. We all have a birthright to the pursuit of happiness as stated in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, especially for those who realize and experience it least:
“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.”
I wish all a happy Thanksgiving!