By Dianne Witte
I’m sure you recognize this phrase from the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson. Have you wondered why the word “pursuit” was used? Curious isn’t it? Pursuit means to strive for, seek. The other two words, “life” and “liberty” have no such qualifier. Why pursuit of happiness, and not achievement of happiness, or experience of happiness, or just plain, happiness?
Let’s put the phrase in context. Maybe there are clues there. My sources say, Jefferson wrote it, but it was subject to considerable debate and editing by the 56 co-signers. In fact, they sometimes haggled for an hour on a single word. Wonder if “pursuit” was one of them? Wouldn’t it have been interesting to hear that debate? What they ended up with was:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”
It goes on, to list the grievances against King George, (clearly not a “happy” relationship) but this gives us the “flavor” of the circumstances and intention. Notice, the truths “are endowed by their Creator.” It seems to say we have these rights and Government is responsible to secure them. What does “secure these rights” mean? Keep these Rights available and accessible? Not out and out provide them? They were already “endowed” on us. So, the revolutionaries felt the government of King George was violating these endowed rights, making it impossible to pursue happiness.
How does government “secure” the pursuit of happiness? Perhaps, given the context, it is by simply providing the freedom to do so. Government doesn’t provide happiness and the Creator only provides the right to pursue it. So, there is something for us to do in order to be happy. How do you pursue happiness?
First off, knowing that you have a right to it and the Creator wants you to be happy is something to consider. That seems to be implied by the statement. In other words, happiness is available if you pursue it. In fact, the Founding Father’s probably believed that. It makes sense to me, since the Ageless Wisdom teaches that when we came into form, it was so dense, we lost conscious connection with our Creator and felt abandoned, creating our sense of unhappiness. It wasn’t that our Source was unhappy with us, we just lost connection. Our Creator is still there just waiting for us to acknowledge our mistake and link up. Hence, the way to pursue happiness is simply to know it is yours, you simply forgot.
So, happiness is an inside job. Government can only assure you the freedom to pursue it. It reminds me of a quote from Marianne Williamson, “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just BE happy.”