What a name for a blog, And the Pursuit of Happiness.
The blog’s beautiful, but it’s not really a blog. It’s a place that, once a month, displays a new piece of written and visual art—created by author and illustrator of children’s books Maira Kalman. It was one of the most popular items on New York Times‘ website recently, which is how I found it.
Here’s another thing the blog isn’t: it isn’t focused on people pursuing happiness. Its name is more a reference to its decidedly American focus, and also its storyline that there is happiness here, despite the myriad and potentially devastating problems inherent in our system.
I like Kalman a lot. She acknowledges the problems, but lets the columnists deal with them. She’s resolved her little corner of the Times is gonna be about the good people are doing and trying to do. It’s not reckless promotion but, rather, she realizes that sometimes journalism means telling, simply, the happiness people have and bring to others. Kalman’s a good journalist.
Inevitably this phrase, “the pursuit of happiness,” gets me thinking about philosophy and theology. Is self-gratification an end or a mere cop-out of one? If it is an end, is it worthwhile? Maybe it’s not worthwhile. Does that necessarily mean we can care about people and ideas outside ourselves? That’s a pretty convoluted way of proving that; probably not a reliable one.
Maybe you think it’s silly I could consider we can’t care about the well-being of people or ideas outside ourselves. (That is, those who don’t have bearing on our own well-being.) Considering the current state of the world, how could we not consider this?
I think most Americans, if really put to the test, would say their ultimate goal is not to simply please themselves. But if they don’t think about it—and most don’t—they tend to live their lives like it is. I’m no exception.
I want to know what you think: did the inclusion of that phrase in our constitution help shape our country’s rubber-stamp acceptance of this pursuit?