I have often thought that America first got into trouble when the words "pursuit of happiness" entered our national conscience in the Declaration of Independence.
That's because the hard truth is that happiness is not something we can intentionally pursue with any success. Rather, it is the byproduct of our attitudes and actions and accomplishments.
As the current interim pastor of my church said in a recent sermon, happiness comes in the back door if it comes in at all. I'm paraphrasing him here, but the pursuit of happiness is a fool's game.
Still, you find all kinds of people pursuing happiness and writing about why Americans are either happy or unhappy. A good recent example is this essay in, of all places, the online Playboy Forum. Before you go there, please know that the site has a few suggestive photos in the ads but nothing that reaches the level of pornography, at least in my view.
It has long seemed to me that Playboy magazine itself was started with the bad idea that it is possible for virile young men to pursue happiness by pursuing beautiful young women. That idea is just about as wrongheaded as it's possible to get about both happiness and relationships.
But in this essay on happiness, which I'm inviting you to read today, I don't find much acknowledgement that happiness is not the true goal of life. Oh, we all want happiness, and, as I say, it's a wonderful byproduct. But my own faith tradition teaches me not that we are here on earth to pursue happiness but, rather, to love others, love and enjoy God and to serve others in need.
Once you figure that out and begin to try to live that way, a lot of things that otherwise seem to be problems and barriers in life take care of themselves. Heck, you can even wind up happy.
* * *
HE CONVERTED TO HATRED
Yes, yes, this radical antisemite's Internet posting asking that God kill the Jews may well be protected by the Constitution, but my question has more to do with how this man, born a Jew, got so wildly and destructively off track. What attracted him to this twisted version of Islam and what drove him to hate his own relatives?
* * *
P.S.: You have an opportunity to hear some fabulous sacred music the evening of Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City. A "Requiem of Peace" by Mario Pearson will be have its world premier at 7 p.m. that day. This is another in a series of joint services done by the Catholic cathedral and the neighboring Episcopal Cathedral, Grace & Holy Trinity.