Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Pursuit of Happiness

Hiking down the Champion Trail, completing what would look like a large snake on Google Earth, I looked over to the left of me, and the wind created waves on the lake where Farmers Branch and Elm Fork Trinity River meet.  Across the lake were large buildings, office buildings with the well known brands displayed proudly upon the apex of the structure. To the right of me, a neighborhood of spacious, well built houses around park lands and canals and sidewalks.  People rode bicycles or tended plants near the trail, and it all seemed peaceful and calm.

I wondered, "Is this Happiness?" Of course it is, the realization of an American Dream, a house, a job, a considerable amount of security, the ability, probably, to go wherever you want.  Now that's freedom.  "But," I asked, "I'm happy. Does all this make them any more happy with their lives?"  I have an apartment, and it's not big, nor do I have the elegant openness of the houses I saw, nor the office in a large, glass-filled building where, at my leisure, I can look out over the parks and the lake and the canals and see my house. But I have a job that I am happy with and grateful for.  What makes my happiness different from theirs? 

I remember back in Georgia, as I have talked about many times, that my stepdad drove an ice cream truck around the poorer neighborhoods of Rockdale County.  We actually sold more ice cream to the children in the trailer parks than in the affluent neighborhoods.  The people watching their large televisions or playing whatever console was out at the time would not have bothered with the ringing bells of the rickety old van when they could get ice cream out of their own freezers.  But in those small streets that wound their way through the mobile homes, the ice cream truck  distributed not only ice cream, but happiness.  They ate sugary goodness, then continued to play outside.  I never once saw those children unhappy.  For while I'm sure they were aware of those places where rich people lived, where they were was home for them.  It was their world, and the things they had were good.  I will not pretend to think that it was all roses and lollipops for them, either.  I'm sure some had parents that were abusive, or drank, or worked all night to provide a roof over their shoulders.  I'm sure they came home tired and had no time for their children.  But so, too, are the people who live in the opulent homes.  They could be abusive, or drink, or spend too much time at work, not able to see their kids.  The conditions in which they live might be different, but often, the emotions around them are the same.  

So, back to my own situation, yes, I am happy.  I thought about it further, and realized that the ability to be happy in this country is the main reason why so many people come here, legally or otherwise.  And that's a rather common thing to say... you hear it on the radio and the television all the time.  But I don't think that people really know what that means.  To people who live in those houses, to them, why would people cross a river with nothing but what they could carry just to come here? I mean, poverty (as we define it) is here as it is elsewhere?  The difference being that here, there is the opportunity for happiness.  It's an old argument, one that goes back to the Declaration of Independence.  "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."  The argument from the free market 
Trail underneath I-635. Dallas loves their bridges!
world is that our government provides for the opportunity for happiness, not necessarily that you will achieve it.  Honestly, happiness is relatively easy to achieve here, with a job, and the basic needs of survival met, the rest is the pursuit of being happy, comfortable with your life.  Any external force that interferes with this should be dealt with by the Federal Government.  I will admit that this is a little more liberal of a stance than what I would normally take, but every citizen should be afforded the "opportunity" to pursue happiness.  According to Maslow, this cannot happen until the basic needs of human survival are met.  Shelter, Warmth, Food.  I think this is ample justification for the programs that welfare extend to those people who might not have it otherwise.  And this is something that is taken advantage of and used for political gains, undoubtedly.  I do not agree with the extent that these programs are used, but that they are absolutely necessary, I will stand by and defend.  I would even go so far as to agree with the need for basic health care, the basics that keep us all healthy and able to pursue our goals.  Again, this is not to say that everyone should be taken care of completely for their entire lives, as we have had thrust upon us, but for children and those who cannot afford it, it's absolutely necessary.  

I have digressed some, but that's okay.  My main thought was that I am just as happy living my life right now as the people living in those houses and working in those buildings.  I know I've had a lot of stressful things that have happened to me (my Cousin who is a psychologist pointed out that of the list of the most stressful things that can happen to a person, I've had most of them happen to me in the past couple of years). I think I've come through the fire , with Help, of course, very nicely, and that, with that same Help, I can overcome any obstacles in my way.  The journey that I'm on, one that, in the end, will result in my independence, in my "growing up" as it were (you know that's not going to happen fully, but a little maturing wouldn't hurt), is just starting.  The one lesson that a lot of people need to learn is that looking up at the houses on the hill, or the towers of offices and the opulent stores that sell temporary satisfaction, all these things are just that, temporary, and there's little of that which is different from what I already have.  What ultimately improves that happiness is what I do with it.  From the people I meet to the things that I do, that will provide happiness, not the material objects I have around me.  Again, this sounds like a common theme, realized over and over again in sit-coms and cartoons, but it's the truth, and is something that is so hard to realize.  Not when every window out in the world broadcasts what you don't have, and how wonderfully happy those people are that do have it.  It's not the "haves" and "have nots,"  but the "lives" and the "lives not."  I would rather live, and be happy, in my small abode, than toil and strain, simply to get more of what is out there, and not be happy at all.  As Candide said, I am happy simply "tending my garden."  That is what I intend to do.  

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