11.27.2013

Thanks, Giving


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Of all the things we Americans - we restless, hungry, and driven Americans - pursue, happiness is the overarching concept that is codified in our Declaration of Independence.  What could be more inspiring and yet banal than the pursuit of happiness?  Surely it's both revolutionary and non-controversial all at the same time, this notion that the most important thing is to go hard after happy.

Ah, but there's been a flurry of writing and research that suggests that the pursuit of happiness has its dark side.  See for example what Penelope Trunk has written and linked to here: "The Pursuit of Happiness Makes Life Shallow." It turns out that there are much better things to give our lives to than to maximize our own happy quotient.  In particular, real joy comes from loving and serving others.

There's a deeper message here but I'm lazy so let me just say that I hope that this holiday season we'll be more grateful, yes, but also that we'll be more giving.  Because, even more than an unbridled pursuit of happiness, that's what makes for a truly wonderful and meaningful life.


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