Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Marilynne Robinson said it best. “We are to seek our well-being as we define our well-being, and determine for ourselves the means by which it might be achieved.” In pursuit of that well-being, the unique talents of each individual must be discovered and developed.
Since there are no two individuals alike, each must find his own path, which is to be found in the heart not the head, for It is there one finds a true potential for self-fulfillment which is the only true source of happiness. Only in this way, can you become the best whatever and whomever you were meant to be.
To understand Jefferson’s phrase, we must realize that the right he speaks of is that of seeking self-fulfillment without governmental intrusion into the heart. This, of course, does not take into consideration the societal intrusion in the form of peer pressure the head might succumb to. Herein lies the folly and the great failing of a competitive economic system that urges conformity in assuming that happiness is to be found in the acquisition material assets. We wind up competing for happiness in acquisition. It simply does not exist. The source for true happiness lies not without but within. In truth, by the amassing of the material, one becomes a prisoner of one’s possessions, confined and restricted by them in a need to protect and preserve them. The alienation that results leads to a distrust of others which is contrary to the essence of humanity and any hope for happiness. The folly of happiness with no thought of sharing it is folly indeed. Nay, it is an impossibility. There is no sacrifice in the sharing of one’s uniqueness. Indeed, the double source of happiness, the fulfillment that comes from the exercise of one’s unique talents and the gratification that comes with the recognition of and appreciation for the sharing of those talents with others, may result in the only true and lasting happiness free of the competition and envy that is found in the fruitless pursuit of a material advantage.
Jefferson’s phrase places the one’s unique onus for finding a proper pursuit for happiness on each individual, for it will only be found within one’s self in the development of talents.
This short essay is published on this blog with the consent of Hal O'Leary.