Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

by Deana Chadwell3/9/19
These concepts – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are dear, or once were dear, to the hearts of all Americans. These are the sacred rights of all human beings  — “sacred” because they are God-given and are not derived from government, rather government’s only mandate is to provide cover for those rights.

However, due to decades of twisted school curricula, and of postmodern, subjective journalism, we’ve arrived at a place where a sizable percentage of our population finds equality, immorality, and environmentalism superior concepts. In fact the left finds these ideas so compelling that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of us all to impose widespread adherence to these new gods.

Equality alone is deadly. Despite its description as “leveling the playing field” there is nothing level, nothing honest about it.  The left openly wants to redistribute wealth as if a cosmic unfairness had declared some rich and some poor and government’s job is to rectify that. That attitude might have made sense back in feudal times, when upward mobility was close to impossible, but it makes no sense at all in a society where millions have manufactured their own wealth and the door of possibilities stands wide open. At least for now.

What’s worse is the audacity of some to think that they are the ones with the right to decide who gets what and that becomes even more audacious when you realize what wealth actually is. Whether we talk about the 1% or the middle class, wealth and property are bought with one’s time, effort, and talents. They are purchased with one’s life. After all, that is all that life gives us – time and the capacity to use it productively. To take my property is to help oneself to my life, to say that my production belongs to someone else, not to me. Once a person has convinced himself that he has a right to my life in that sense, it doesn’t take long to assume that he has the right to also take the life of my body.

Perhaps this explains the cavalier attitude of the left toward life in general. Leftists appear to be quite comfortable with killing infants. They’re generally in favor of euthanasia, and many have expressed the willingness to erase the elderly a la Brave New World. They are promoting childlessness as a sacrifice to their environmental deity (it seems not to have dawned on any of them that if we fail to reproduce, they’ll run out of people to push around and steal from). The left stomps about claiming that “Black likes matter,” but their policies, from welfare and abortion to gun laws and lousy schools, have caused the loss of tens of millions of black lives. Life – the greatest gift God has given us – means little to the folks who are fond of quoting, “You have to break a few eggs if you’re going to make an omelet.”

God not only gave us each life, but He also gave us free will – liberty. It is necessary that we have untrammeled volition so that we can be free to choose Him. It is also necessary so that we can each become “all [we] can become,” as Harrison Bergeron so tragically declared in the Kurt Vonnegut story. Along with life and liberty, God has given each of us amazing gifts, and freedom is necessary for us to realize our potential.

We know from Thomas Maslow’s work that we can’t reach our inbred capabilities – he called it self-realization – until our basic animal necessities are met. If we’re starving, or trying to sleep out in the cold, or fighting off an illness, we can’t be painting masterpieces.  We have many rock-bottom needs in order to just survive at an animal level, but a society must be able to provide the structure for us to rise above that or our humanity dies. It isn’t enough for our society to give us food, clothing, and shelter – prisons do that. Human beings are designed to hunt for happiness.

Happiness and the pursuit thereof is the last of the triune purpose for America. But what is happiness? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago beautifully explained for us in his classic Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience. He defined happiness as the state of being when we are so involved in what we are doing that time evaporates – it flows right past us and when we finally stop doing whatever we were engrossed in, we wonder where the time went. We’ve lost track of ourselves, of distractions and moved into a state of “optimal experience.”

After 20 years of following his subjects – they each had a small meter with them that allowed them to record those moments when they were feeling happy –Csikszentmihalyi discovered that in spite of all of us wanting the weekend to get here quickly, his subjects most often recorded happiness when they were working. Work – meaningful work — makes us happy. Not welfare. Not free stuff. Not rest. Not play. Work.  People in Venezuela right now are not only lacking the basic necessities of survival, but they have no opportunity for fulfilling work.

Note that our American dream is not happiness, but the pursuit of happiness, which confirms what Csikszentmihalyi found. We want to go after it; we know it can’t just be handed to us. Some part of our souls needs the struggle. I don’t have to sit here and write this, but I want to; doing so pleases my inner-most being.  Our president doesn’t have to work. He could just be lolling around his gold-plated penthouse, but he’s working 20-hour days, struggling against horrifying odds, because it is in him to do so.

But the new left is not at all interested in our individual need for fulfillment. The left is not really even aware of the rest of us as human. We are merely the eggs for their omelet and an omelet doesn’t present each egg separately – they’re all whipped up together, one indistinguishable from the rest, and all of them very dead.

These “Justice Democrats” are after beating us all into an homogenized, manageable mass all in the name of equality – which is ridiculous on its face since none of us is like the other – and these folks like to tout “social justice” and at the same time encourage every kind of immorality and injustice imaginable.  They appear to be on the side of pedophilia, of human trafficking, of terrorism. They appear to be playing fast and loose with immigration and campaign finance laws. They are willing to falsify votes in a dozen different ways and they don’t mind being complicit in America’s slavery 2.0 – illegal immigration. Immorality is their second god.

But their biggest idol is the environment  — Mother Earth – Gaia — their mighty goddess, a goddess so fragile that she’ll self-combust if cattle don’t stop digesting and they believe that all of us – not them — but all of us should be sacrificed at its altar.  Life be damned.  Liberty be damned.  The pursuit of happiness has no place in this budding dystopia. Earth only has room for the power-hungry to wallow in their useless, miserable might.

In some way, at some time in the future all this will be rectified.  God, the author of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, will wipe the grins off the faces of the evil and will set His Son on the throne and the Earth will again be what she once was and we’ll all become what He designed us to become – blessedly happy.

Deana Chadwell blogs at She is also an adjunct professor at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. She teaches writing and public speaking.
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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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18 Responses to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    It’s sad but true that those hallowed rights from which governments derive their just powers are no longer so honored. Note, by the way, that the Declaration doesn’t say those are our rights; it says that they are among our inalienable rights, suggesting that there are in fact others. For example, Locke listed property as among them.

    Jefferson no doubt was thinking of equality under the law, springing from equality in the eyes of God. Equality of opportunity is also a point, though harder to achieve. But the leftist goal is equality of result, which of course doesn’t apply to the nomenklatura. This naturally leads to thinking of the proles as identical cogs in the machine of society.

    I don’t recall any mention (either way) of what happened to the elderly in Brave New World. Those unable to work were covertly killed in Animal Farm and probably 1984. The elderly definitely were eliminated in Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day.

    It’s important to remember that happiness is not a right, merely the pursuit. There’s no guarantee of success.

    • David Ray says:

      It didn’t surprise me that “Animal Farm” is no longer taught in 10th grade English class at my former high school, that Shakespeare is no longer required at many colleges, and that one is required to take at least one bullshit “studies” elective to graduate.

      Dennis Prager is right: if you send your kids to college, you’re gambling with their lives and your pocket book.

  2. In Brave New World those who reached 60 were taken to a special facility where they were given an overdose of Soma, the drug that everyone was doped with. The children played in the same room where the “elderly” were dying so that the kids would grow up thinking that dying at that age was normal. I swear I can feel these folks coming for me now. They are a rapacious lot.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, it’s been over half a century since I read the book. We had it and 1984 in the 10th grade, though I may have read the latter already (I had read Animal Farm on my own several years earlier). I definitely read the first part in Reader’s Digest (up to, but not including, the beginning of the liaison between Winston and Julia). I guess that’s why I don’t remember it.

      Well, I’m 67 and in poor health, so if they were coming for you, they’d no doubt come after me first. In fact, one reason I opposed Obamacare was their medical care board. People like us would be very low priorities for receiving cares under the Ezekiel Emanuel standard.

  3. Steve Lancaster says:

    Tim mentioned Locke and property.
    To Locke the pursuit of happiness was property of any kind. The assurance that what you have can not be taken from you without the proper legal process. This concept can be found in Magna Carta and restated at different times in English history. The idea that you could own something and not even the king could take it from you without warrant is central to the Common Law. Jefferson originally desired to write Life, Liberty and Property but was dissuaded because of slavery.

    Our education process has been reduced to a level that prizes self-esteem over accomplishment. For every well educated student graduating high school there must be 100 who are functional illeterates with no knowledge of history, thus no concept of future. I try to not suffer from old man’s disease. That everything is going to hell and was much better when I was a kid. The 50s were not peaches and cream but even the communists then had a modicum of common sense.

    I spent a couple of semesters with the Puritans of New England. In spite of their reputation as well, puritan; reading their literature, sermons and other documents you discover a vibrant community of very literate people, 95%+ could read and write. They were concerned with virtue, not so much sexual, but moral and ethical, so much the Pilgrims Progress was core reading up through the 19th century.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Cotton Mather was a noted advocate of variolation, which was the way of dealing with smallpox before Edward Jenner discovered an unexpected benefit of cowpox (vaccina, hence vaccination). His father managed to bring the Salem hysteria to an end with his argument that the devil could appear in anyone’s form, which made spectral evidence worthless. (If anything, one would expect the devil to mimic the righteous in order to get them into trouble.) As a matter of fact, our 11th grade reader included Cotton Mather’s discussion of the case of Bridget Bishop, one of the first witches convicted and executed.

      And after Salem 1692, there were no more witch trials in America. Europe was unable to say the same thing. And while we’re at it, remember that Pennsylvania’s great intellectual force, Benjamin Franklin, was born and raised in Boston among the Puritans.

  4. David Wigley says:

    Hello Ms. Chadwell: Thank you for another great essay. I always benefit from your clear thinking and careful exposition of falsehood. If I may, I believe the Maslow you referred to is Abraham, and his “top of the hierarchy” is self actualization. With respect, David Wigley

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    From this essay (much of which I don’t agree with) I found this:

    If Thomas Jefferson did not coin the phrase, who did? Wikipedia (drawing on, I think, an old edition of the Encylopedia Britannica) attributes its coinage to Dr. Samuel Johnson in his long fable Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, published in 1759.  Rasselas is an Abyssinian prince who lives in the Happy Valley, a paradise in every respect imaginable. But the Prince is discontented. Accompanied by his sister Nekayah and a wise, well-traveled poet, he escapes from his utopia and travels around the known world.  They visit the Great Pyramid, where a dear friend of Nekayah is kidnapped by Arabs. Wounded by this loss, the Princess laments: “what is to be expected from our pursuit of happiness when we find the state of life to be such, that happiness itself is the cause of misery?”

    Emphasis mine. The Left is all about the “Pursuit of Happiness.” We can say that Jefferson substituted “happiness” for Locke’s “Property” because it sounded nobler (and it does). Whatever word we use, we might note the difference between “pursuit” and “guarantee,” and such a distinction is the difference between freedom and Communism.

    But at the end of the day, we pursue as a society not happiness or property, per se. We pursue emotional fulfillment. And this has left a field of unhappy Snowflakes (including more than a few conservatives). Life is not so arranged to keep us fulfilled (let alone in a state of happiness). Turning lemons into lemonade — that is, dealing with life’s rough spots — is not necessarily the goal of life, but it is a necessary coping mechanism, if only so that we don’t become like the Left which is too serious, can’t laugh, and gains virtue by thinking how horrible things are. This is an anti-coping mechanism.

    One should particularly emphasize that the cult politics of the Left precisely and definitely inculcates people into a constant state of agitation — even while the new-age veneer tells people to be “fulfilled.” To be anything less than dour and serious is to betray mankind, for with so much suffering in the world, it is dogmatically blasphemous to be happy. (To be “equal” is okay though.) We are to be aggrieved, in a constant state of agitation. We are to “make a difference.” Etc.

    And we are also to be “fulfilled.” Women, in particular, have lunatic expectations thrust upon them. Wife. Mother. World-beater. They are to be serious, important, “make a difference,” and be happy and fulfilled as well. Opioid crisis? Where do you think that came from?

    Men have their own special problems, having been turned into emotional pretzels. To exhibit the good traits of a man is now considered “toxic masculinity.” But will acting like girls ever make a man happy or fulfilled?

    I look at the churches and see how off-track even this profession has become. There are three ways to approach things, and only one is right. Either the point of religion is as a poverty program, a prosperity program, or a salvation program (at the very least, helping to save mankind from his own fallen nature). One and two predominate.

    In their own way, schools have doubled-down on their own lost sense of direction. Now it’s about being “happy” and entertained instead about being educated. It tracks with the self-esteem movement that has disembodied “self-esteem” away from what it belongs with: sincere and honest accomplishment.

    Our society right now, this very minute, is emotionally cracking up. The signs of it are everywhere. We’re becoming a toxic civilization. We are completely adrift. The guidance we need is simple and timeless: Be productive, be honest, be good. That won’t save you from life’s inevitable bumps in the road. But it will help you from making them worse. If you can build happiness on top of that, go for it. But keep your expectations in check. The root of unhappiness can be precisely defined as “when expectations don’t meet reality.” Having realistic expectations is thus key to any kind of mental sanity, let alone happiness.

    One might also say “be humble.” Lighten the load. Lighten up. But various forms of grandiosity are so interwoven into our culture, the word literally has no meaning to most these days. And everyone can’t be the grandest. But would Facebook or any of the supposed “social” media exist as such major players if such media were not (as I say it is) about “competitive happiness,” the desire to seem to others that one is active, involved, important, affluent, and, of course, happy? Why the hell else would one bother to post a photo of what one is drinking in the local Starbucks?

    There’s another very simple way to look at this to understand how messed up we are: Never has it been so easy to procure the basics: food, clothing, and shelter. And yet people are generally agitated and unhappy, certainly thanks in part to addiction to The Daily Drama, the soulless beast that knows only social combat, envy, hatred, and grievance — and to a major political party that feeds on this.

    Mother Gaia and environmental-wacko-ism are great tells as to what is going on. Because there is now no avenue to internally setting ourselves right (all functions of society — including religion — are about ramping up narcissism in various forms), we reach for the external. It’s sort of akin to young couple who have a dog and treat it like the child that they don’t have. People hug a tree because they’ve been alienated from themselves and others. And all this “social” media and Leftist indoctrination, instead of making us best buds, has led to people learning to hate the human race. What’s left then but to hug a tree? When even the idea of a Creator is besmirched and thought only the province of fools, what’s left to be sacred but frogs, plants, and rivers?

    And with gold stars being routinely handed out just for showing up, who is going to even conceive of the idea of taking a realistic look at internal flaws? All the fixes are on the outside, according to today’s culture-wide attitude. It’s YOU (or something else) that needs fixing, not me.

    How do you make bricks without straw? How do you build a solid house upon sand?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Leftism teaches people to want happiness in a narcissistic way, and fulfillment in thinking all the left thoughts. Above all, they want people to be constantly agitated and outraged because such people will vote, and against the status quo.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Leftism teaches people to want happiness in a narcissistic way, and fulfillment in thinking all the left thoughts.

        To be fair, as someone I know would say, the culture teaches all of us to be little aggrieved, fussy, narcissistic plebs. The entire modern free-market system is based upon instilling a feeling of inadequacy for what you have. Why else would you buy the next newfangled thing when the benefits are marginal, at best? How else would there be 50 brands of toothpaste on the shelf?

        One of the areas of my life that I enjoy is retro computing. I even do some business with others who have businesses that specialize in that online.

        People who collect, or have museums, or restore, or just enjoy a good piece of machinery (whenever it was made) all contribute to a healthy, sane culture. Isn’t abortion, at heart, about living and breathing the disposable culture?

        I read a canned response (I’m sure it was just cut-and-pasted from elsewhere) by a commentor under some article on environmental wackoism. The shtick (and I’m sure you’ve read this before) is that the modern environmentalist have nothing to teach us, the ones who were basically putting chicken shit back into the soil to boost the crops. Etc. Etc.

        And looks who is stuffing the earth with packing peanuts and all kinds of wasteful packaging. Oooo. Now I remember. It was a comment underneath an article about the Chinese now refusing most recycled products because they don’t need them. And how it’s been a dirty little secret for some time now that municipalities save money by burning the garbage or dumping it into a landfill than trying to recycle it.

        It had always been my stance that, yes, by all means let us recycle aluminum and some high-value things that make sense. And, for goodness sake, if you can find a way to re-use high-volume trash like automobile tires, all the better. But the rest was just nonsense.

        The article even mentioned how screwy people have gotten. I guess Penn & Teller did a thing where they went to some liberal (under the official guise of a local recycling authority) and gave them something like five or six separate cans with ultra-complicated recycling instructions. And apparently the home-owner, rather than being annoyed, was enthused about it all.

        This stuff has become a fetish, or perhaps a religion.

        And getting back to your original point, reality matters much less for many than whatever fulfillment-emotion one can stoke by whatever means.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Louiville provides recycling bins to houses, and certain forms of trash — paper, cans, glass — are supposed to go there. And some things can be used as compost, which Elizabeth used to do until her health caught up with her. But they also accept that there is regular trash (which includes what people don’t compost). They also pick up yard waste, and occasionally large items of junk.

          Apartments have their own facilities, usually just a trash dumpster. Recyclables can be taken to the facilities that accept them (where the contents of the bins go).

          • David Ray says:

            On one of Rush’s morning updates, he shared that many cities are simply discarding the recyclables into the trash dumps. It simply got to costly to deal with them when not separated. (Aluminum cans are the exception at times.)

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Back when Elizabeth worked, she came home close enough to the place where recycled cans went that we’d put our cans in large trash bags so that she could sell them. Of course, if you take much of a detour you probably spend more on gas than you get for the recyclable metal.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Never has it been so easy to procure the basics: food, clothing, and shelter. And yet people are generally agitated and unhappy

      I would imagine that for most of history, mankind was too busy trying to survive to be very concerned about whether or not one was happy or not.

      And there is a reason for the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Most people are not philosophers, and when given too much time to think they become confused and unhappy. Why do you think TV and social media are so popular? No thinking required.

      Women, in particular, have lunatic expectations thrust upon them. Wife. Mother. World-beater. They are to be serious, important, “make a difference,” and be happy and fulfilled as well

      I have always maintained that one of the reasons much of feminism turned so bitter is that too many foolish women believed the nonsense which was being fed to them, i.e. “you can have it all.” Why anyone would be so silly as to believe such rubbish is beyond me, but human beings never cease to do stupid things. Generally speaking, when one makes a choice one is opting to give up part of one thing in order to get more of another thing. Rarely can you have your cake and eat it. Perhaps humanity’s biggest failing is the inability to learn from the past.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Agreed on all, Mr. Kung.

        What we might also agree on:

        There’s nothing wrong with wanting more security, comfort, and happiness. But if one is expecting external sources for all those things, one will likely find it more difficult to achieve any of them. (For instance, buy a handgun, learn how to use it, and you won’t particularly care if it takes 911 thirty minutes to get a cop to your door regarding a break-in.)

        But many of those things are achieved via our more communal methods (government, friends and neighbors, private groups). There is (and should be) a hierarchy of principals and methods.

        And then there’s the other side of the equation. It’s what Pat call “Suck-it-up-buttercupness.” We need to learn and appreciate the more manly (can be womanly as well) principles of perseverance and just being able to handle a certain amount of discomfort without emotionally falling apart.

        My biggest failing is probably dealing with, and acting on, external elements. I’m not like Pat who has the get-up-and-go to really take on the world (as does his amazing wife). But we all have our strengths and weaknesses. What we can do is work within our limitations. We can all keep trying.

        And I’m in complete agreement with Deane that after our basic needs are met, it’s then that we have a better chance of expressing our more creative and unique aspects of ourselves. Even then, let’s not get too caught up in utopian “artsy fartsy” dreams which are the favorite of the Left. We on the right have always been of the opinion that the country is full of the true heroes which are those who quietly work and provide for themselves and their families, even if their jobs won’t ever get them front page news.

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither;

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