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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Foundations of Happiness

We are happy campers, the saying goes.  But what does it take to make us happy?  We had best be careful in answering that question.  Happiness depends not only on what we can get, but most especially on a healthy self-image brought about by the capacity to give unto others both the tangible and intangible.  Parents feel good about being good providers for their children, as no doubt they should.  But it is not debatable which is more import—wisdom in giving vs. profligacy in giving.  Where there is profligacy in giving, the motive on the part of the parent is essentially selfish.  No matter what harm is done; every whim and desire of the child must be satisfied.  The parent will forgo no efforts to be liked by the child.  Clearly a parent is called upon to give not only the tangible, but also the intangible.  This includes qualities of character unreachable and even thwarted through material indulgence.  Like many Americans, I often think of (not to say am haunted by) the declaration that among the inalienable rights of mankind are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”   These rights are intended to make us happy campers, yet all three concepts are readily open to excesses and perversions that mock the very tone of the Declaration and the self-respect of humanity.  These words are used to defend everything from drunken orgies to church at high tower.  We are vastly reluctant to decide that anything is beyond the pale, but clearly we must so decide in order to endure.  Clearly a considered mix of the tangible and intangible is called for. Clearly a sane and principled approach rests on the responsible and loving foundations of human nature.

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