Pursuing personal independence
Highlands TodayOn July 4, Americans celebrate 233 years of freedom, the "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Chris Gardner, in the movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness," kept asking: "How did Thomas Jefferson 'know' we have to 'pursue' happiness?"
Published: July 3, 2009
Published: July 3, 2009
Jefferson studied the Bible, gleaning truth. Sadly, he did what many others do. He cut out the parts he did not like or understand, creating The Jefferson Bible. As the saying goes: "Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers." Jefferson did understand that pursuit negates reliance on luck. Abraham Lincoln said: "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be." And that late-noticed phenomenon, Grandma Moses, summed it up: "Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be."
Nurturing victim mentality kills happiness. Rick Warren started his bestseller, "The Purpose Driven Life," with: "It's not about you." In a "Maxine" cartoon, she has an epiphany: "Then finally one day I realized no one was watching me, nobody really cared, nothing mattered ... and I was great!" Happiness lies in our own hands.
Even if confusion surrounds us, we can seek clarity. Sam Wang, co-author of "Welcome To Your Brain," says scattered thinking causes "ecodepletion," literally, running out of willpower. Researchers find "mindful eating," being aware of where, when, what, and why, helps people with eating disorders. Geneen Roth ("The Constant Food Critic," Good Housekeeping, June 2009) suggests we clarify our personal needs, stop blaming others and take control of our own lives.
Roth's contention, however, that "shame does not ever, under any circumstance, lead to long-lasting change" neglects the fact that ability to feel shame can jar us in the right direction. When AIG spent $440,000 of taxpayers' money at a luxury resort, they bypassed shame to our detriment. "The current downturn is the first post-World War II recession that has its roots in widespread moral failure," wrote Rabbi Levine in "The Recession of 2008: The Moral Factor..." Amorality or immorality leads to bondage.
Joy eludes us if we don't stand our ground. In "Save Your Sanity" (Real Simple Magazine, March 2007) Stacey Colino suggested we set boundaries against emotionally toxic people: using body language, such as refusal to make eye contact; scheduling as few of these pessimists into the day as possible; pre-planning get-away phrases. In the same issue Adam Bluestein touted breaking rules in small ways and reevaluating life's list of "thou shalt not's." Celebrated author Amy Bloom concurred in "Getting Real" (AARP Magazine, July/August 2008): "Time helps sort the 'must' from the 'should.'"
Many, even Christians, wait on happiness to be imparted. Surrendering to God is certainly the first step. Then, much as a scribe records sacred writings, the believer writes upon his own life "...like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old" (Matthew 13:52 NAS). The believer turns his own key to unlock the kingdom within, the place of life and liberty, activating a quality and quantity, the new and the old, of bliss independent of circumstances, real pursuit of real freedom.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.