In the Declaration of Independence, there is a famous line that says that we are allowed “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This line has brought on not only a very heartwarming movie by Will Smith, but, also in large part a dream, The American Dream. This dream, is a dream of sustainability a ideals that would satisfy their being. We have all had an American Dream. If I had mine, I’d live in somewhere like Kentucky or Tennessee, married to Amanda Seyfried, have two girls and a boy, and, smoke Arturo Fuente’s by the bonfire.
I like this dream. A lot, actually. I think in one hand because it’s highly unrealistic, but, for another reason, it is incredibly comfortable. This stem of thought comes from a famous Philosopher named Aristotle. Aristotle believed that happiness was a state of fulfillment of life. The American Dream is built upon the same principle, this fulfillment of life. Aristotle called this life the Virtuous life. Where one can obtain a quality of life that is obtainable by a human being.
So what if I never achieve this life? What if I fall in love with the bastard child of Rosie O’donnell. What if I have six boys? What if I can never smoke another cigar again? What if I follow my dreams in writing, and, sell copies only to friends and family? Am I a failure? I think that our current economic state has shown that this dream doesn’t hold a sustainability for our lives.
Another form of thought has really came upon my generation, that I truly believe is causing us to die to a significance of life. Those beliefs are of relativism and nihilism. Nihilism, is a belief in nothing. Nothing holds meaning, nothing holds value. Relativism is the belief that all truth is equal truth. What is true for me, may not be true for you, but, what is true for you, may not be true to me. If everything is equally true, then isn’t everything equally untrue? If everything is right, wouldn’t that make everything wrong too?
I have a friend. This friend is kind of like Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother (Yes….. Played by Doogie Howser). My friend believes that life is the pursuit of fun and pleasure, we die and cease to exist. My friend counts the number of women he sleeps with. He is very proud of the fact that he is in triple digits. I have also seen this friend drunk, and, if anyone has seen a drunk person, a drunk person is incapable of lying. So I have heard the confessions of him, of his loneliness of his despair, of his brokenness. Despite his stories of an infamous foursome, his amazing tolerance of Jaggermeister, and the countless people he has beat up for his manhood. His consumption of booze and sex, has left him empty, and, often, hopeless.
N.T Wright, probably the most important scholar of the 21st century speaks on behalf of happiness. He has spoken about how The American Dream and Christianity looks like the Prosperity Gospel. He tells us in his book, After You Believe, that happiness, true happiness, comes from participation in the Kingdom of God. Participating in God’s love, peace and justice and restoration of the world and its relationships.
If our idea of happiness comes from a sense of comfort or pleasure, we are in for a rude awakening. Comfort and pleasure is an endless pursuit that brings neither comfort or pleasure. At what point am I comfortable enough? What is the next thing, who is the next person that will bring me greater pleasure? Ask all of the drug addicts and abusers how that is working for them.
I recommend that we find happiness as Wright recommends us to. I also recommend that we seek to find Joy. Joy, is something is far more significant than happiness. Joy, is an inner acceptance, an inner embrace, and, an inner peace with who we are and what we have done. When I love myself, I love others so much freely, and, can give them what I am giving others. This life, of the pursuit of the kingdom, and, of joy, seems to me, what Jesus is calling us to when he desires abundant life for us.
Be kind to yourself today.