When Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, he wrote of three inalienable rights. Among the three, was the “pursuit of happiness”. While some people think that the phrase, “pursuit of happiness” is about the acquiring of material wealth, as portrayed in the recent movie by the same name. In reality, that isn’t the case. Scholars know that Jefferson admired Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, who founded a system of philosophy. The following description of Epicurianism is from Wikipedia:
The philosophy originated by Epicurus propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life. Hence, Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one’s lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure. The emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Therefore, according to Epicurus, with whom a person eats is of greater importance than what is eaten.
So Jefferson was advocating a pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right, he was in essence advocating a pursuit of Epicureanism philosophy as a fundamental aspect of a free man’s life.
You might wonder why I am talking about Epicureanism. Why is it so important, that I would make an effort to share these ideas with you.
Well, I think that happiness is something that you should pursue, and it is absolutely worth pursuing. Happiness does not necessarily come automatically with other goals like attaining an education, advancement at work, raising a family, or striving for any other goal. Happiness should be a goal unto itself and you should pursue it, the same way that you might pursue your other goals. Those other goals may or may not bring you happiness, and, at best, attaining those other goals most likely will only bring you temporary happiness. Therefore, you should make happiness a goal unto itself.
Make sure that whatever you do in life, make sure that you set aside a little time each week to think about what gives you happiness and make finding a little happiness each week, one of your goals for that week. You may not succeed every week, but just thinking about it and working on a plan, should provide some hope for the next week. Furthermore, I believe you should encourage and help your partners, family and friends to find a little happiness each week.
This essay was written over the spring and summer of 2016 by Mike Willegal