The commentary is from a year ago
, and the poem was written so long ago that we were still flying Space Shuttles. But the feeling is quite sincere, and I’ve had much reason to put the skill discussed below to use.
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I hope that each and every one of you is having a happy Fourth of July. The “happy” part of that is significant, and I sincerely hope that you have the skill and the circumstances to achieve it.Skill? Yes. Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, wrote one of the most oft-quoted lines in history describing unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Someone suggested to me today that:
Happiness is a thing based on the circumstances we are in. Good circumstances=happy, bad circumstances=unhappy.
I disagreed. (And later, the commenter pretty much agreed with my objection, which is posted below.)
Happiness is a learned skill. To describe it as as merely the result of circumstances would be like saying a person is a skilled carpenter simply because he lives in a neighborhood of well-built homes.
Look at even recent history, and the number of people who have been so desperately unhappy that they took their own lives — despite living in comparative luxury and in circumstances that billions around the world would fight and die for, and would take minor issues in stride.
What killed these people — the teenager despondent over acne, the wealthy man who had a deal go bad, the actor without work despite a great body of success and money in the bank? (Let’s set aside the cases of actual cognitive impairment, such as Robin Williams’ Lewy Body Disorder.)
These people did not die from circumstances; they were led to kill themselves from the lack of sufficient skill to handle the circumstances they were in. Have you ever seen someone of very modest means, even in dire straits, who was nevertheless happy? Of course. Yet that person’s circumstances would dictate otherwise were the hypothesis correct. And successful (or particularly wealthy-through-inheritance) people being unhappy is so common it is a cliché.
Circumstances can be so bad as to interfere with happiness. Of course, death does this, but injury or illness or loss can require extraordinary skill to remain happy, and few have such skill. Cognitive impairment, like Williams above, can take away whatever skill you had already developed and leave you without defenses.
But happiness, as Jefferson knew, is a very good thing, not an “affliction” as mentioned upthread here. (He knew better; he wished that “affliction” upon Citizen Tom in good faith.)
Jefferson used “the pursuit of Happiness” as a shorthand catch-all for those things a person can do once they’ve attained some skill at it, and those things are inherent rights and not to be infringed upon. Don’t disparage it, and don’t sell yourself short. You can be as happy as you decide to be, if you follow up on that decision by seeking and acquiring the skills involved.
During the past year [ed: two years now], I have had to refine my own skills in this area, but I have been successful at this [ed: with more work to do here]. My level of happiness cannot be merely a product of my circumstances, or I’d have been long gone [ed: even more true this past year].
Best wishes for your celebration of Independence Day, and your pursuit of happiness.
On the celebration of Independence Day itself, I wrote this some time back, and it still holds true for me:
The Independence Journey
Tomorrow I travel
Across this great land
And try to unravel
How all this began
I look to the mountains
And gaze at the sea
Are these where the fountains
Of freedom might be?
The fields full of crops
The deep sylvan glade
The bustling shops
Where the future is made
The skyscrapers soaring
The bridges, the ships
The Space-X craft roaring
On million-mile trips
But harvest, invention,
Our tools and our crafts
Are not the intention
Contained in those drafts…
“United States” seems
Like a common phrase now
But once it was dreams
Born from deep thinking brow
As the Founders grew weary
Of rough distant rule
And taxes and tariffs
Provided the fuel…
Hear the bell as it rings!
That proud history shared
Isn’t based on mere “things”
The new nation caught
And flamed bright in their hearts
And though doubters still thought
That such disparate parts
Could never be coached
Or formed into one
Still ideas, once they’re broached
Sometimes see the job done
Through blood and through sweat
And through fear, war and strife
They struggled, and yet
Freedom loved, more than life
So they crafted a code
That gave people a voice
That gave promise to all
And the world, a new choice
By the people’s consent
A Republic was born
And with blood sorely spent
Broke the shackles we’d worn
Then we prospered and grew
In this fair rugged land
And to build straight and true
All the folks lent a hand
The foundation they laid
Is a strong, steady place
And the price that they paid
Gave us strength, hope, and grace
And still our Constitution
Guides the Land of the Free
And provides the solution
That made all of this be
And at last I can see
How our strength came about
Founders fought to be free
With hearts noble and stout
And they carried the day
And they brought it to us!
And we now, in our way
Undertake this great trust
For Americans make
Our America great
So I’ll pause and I’ll take
One more moment to state:
My dear friends reading here
Don’t forget where you are
We’ll defeat hate and fear
And we yet will go far
We each have work to do
(Not just do, but know why)
Now, to each one of you
Happy Fourth of July!
Continue reading The “Happy” in “Happy Independence Day”
This article on PJ Media is entitled: “4 Reasons Christians Can Believe in Evolution” and carries the subtitle buried within “and 2 reasons why you might not want to.” Continue reading Creation
The question was posed this way:
Is it true The Muslim Brotherhood has extensive operations inside the government…?
The question divides into two portions: (a) Are Muslim organizations extensively influential over the US government?, and (b) Are those Muslim organizations fairly considered as part of the Muslim Brotherhood?
To (a), this is uncontroversial. And sadly, the integration of CAIR and ISNA and others into the government’s decisions is blatant and the result is troubling. CAIR (the Council on American Muslim Relations) and ISNA (the Islamic Society of North America) are regular invitees to the White House, are participants in various influential committees, and their demands are heeded.
This unfortunately began during the Bush administration, and was already beginning at the time of 9/11. Muslims demanded that the US government’s output (from military and intelligence training manuals to White House press releases) absolve Islam from blame and never mention it during discussions of jihadism — a word which they demanded not be used.
These demands were part of the discussion of Muslim leaders who were to meet with White House staffers on a date that could be considered bad timing: September 11, 2001. That meeting was delayed somewhat by the events of jihadists taking down the World Trade Center buildings and killing people in airliners and the Pentagon. But when Bush spoke about the attacks, he began by holding Islam blameless and praising it. In his speech on 9/20, and his introduction of the PATRIOT Act, he used what is now common language:
The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. They are some of the murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and responsible for bombing the USS Cole.
Al Qaeda is to terror what the Mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money, its goal is remaking the world and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.
The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics; a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.
The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans and make no distinctions among military and civilians, including women and children.
This group and its leader, a person named Osama bin Laden, are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
During the Obama administration, this practice of tiptoeing around Islam’s involvement in jihad was readily accepted and amplified, and the meetings with and participation of CAIR/ISNA and other Muslim leaders became ever larger. It is official US policy not to mention Islamic involvement in jihad, an absolutely absurd policy. As you’ve seen, various leaders from Obama on down now insist that the Islamic State is not Islamic.
As to Ikhwan’s involvement (“Ikhwan” is “brotherhood” in Arabic), CAIR and ISNA were founded by Ikhwan leaders, and the documents unearthed (during a raid about terrorism support) revealed that CAIR and ISNA and many others were specifically part of a plan to overturn the secular US government and replace it with sharia law. The revolving door between these organizations’ leaders and Ikhwan leadership is further evidence, as is the convicting of a number of those Muslim leaders on terrorism charges.
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
Another commenter, on gun rights and Obama:
Yes, Obama is gonna take away your arsenal! The President can’t confiscate anything, even a B-B gun.
Continue reading Confiscation
A commenter asked why the slaughter of blacks in South Carolina recently was not used for browbeating like the Orlando slaughter and all the others. Here was my reply: Continue reading Browbeating
Carbon dioxide is continually referred to as a “poison” or a “toxin” which must inevitably be irreversibly damaging the Earth. The case is actually the opposite of this. Continue reading Nontoxic
This started out as a short comment in a friend’s blog, but got out of control.
It is easy to get timescales mixed up, and associate the gradual movement of continents with the rise of sea levels.
Continental drift takes place over tens of millions of years. It is a very slow-moving process. the various pieces move apart into separate small continents (as they are now) and come back together into supercontinents, and this cycle is a few hundred million years long. This affects climate, producing effects seen here for the last half-billion years or so, representing the time of spreading across the continents. At the beginning of that time, there were “forests” along the ocean edges — but they were only an inch tall: Continue reading Climates
Paris and hundreds of smaller river towns in France are experiencing two kinds of massive flooding. The first is of immigrant refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, almost entirely young male Muslims. But the second is the more traditional flooding; it has museums and other places scrambling to protect valuables. The worst seems to be over now.
In the US, we have many areas that flood frequently, and we insist on building on those sites. When we get a flood every decade or so, the catastrophists call it a “thousand year flood” or “unprecedented” — you’d think they could check their own newspapers.
And although it’s been a while, the US does get hurricanes… Continue reading Flooding
A friend made an observation that got me thinking. It follows, along with my reply (lightly edited and formatted a bit better):
What we devote our lives to — the principles we honor [and] uphold — is our god.
This strikes me as a rather peculiar formulation. You state it as a given, but such semantic games seem to devalue your own God, relegating that God to simply a set of “principles.” Have you really devoted your life to those principles? Have all Christians who nominally state their faith, even though it seems to exert little control over their lives, really devoted their lives completely to the “principles” of a Christian God?
The God of Everyday Lives?
It seems to me that this effort to make certain that people like me (or like non-believing Progressives) have a “god” is pushing the semantics a bit far.
Most Christians, I would guess, go through their lives with their faiths playing a small or even negligible role in how they conduct themselves day to day. There are exceptions, some of whom are noble indeed. Other beliefs are likely much the same; a discussion of Islam in this context seems worth a post.
Atheists/non-believers/agnostics go through their lives with religious faith playing no role at all. In many cases, it would be hard to tell the difference from nominal Christians, or sometimes even very devout Christians, merely by their actions.
So what does guide our actions and thoughts? It seems to me that each person initially absorbs from their societal surroundings a set of principles that unconsciously guide them. We in the West call these “morals,” and the effects of conflicts between them and our actions our “conscience.” I don’t object to the names.
In the US, these guiding principles in the larger society initially came from the Judeo-Christian-influenced Enlightenment, with a large dose of influence from this country’s excellent founding documents and early leaders like the highly admirable George Washington. Note that it would not have mattered if Washington were really a devout believer, or an atheist who put on a show of piety for an audience that expected it. His actions would still have been impressive and sometimes astounding, and he was a worthy man to look to for guidance.
These national influences are merely a canvas, it seems to me, though a good one in America’s case. More local societal influences can vary widely from this, and add their own color to spots on the canvas, sometimes hiding it completely. And the canvas has discolored with time; it needs a restoration.
Even if a young man in a Washington DC ghetto and a young woman in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown might both be Christians with the same family income, they will nevertheless likely start out their young adult lives with very different principle sets indeed. Individual family differences can play a large role here as well. Two young men of the same age and ethnicity from adjacent homes can emerge with very different core guidance.
Breaking the Mold
As we grow, we reach a point where we start consciously thinking about our guiding principles, and we have the option of modifying them. We’re not forever trapped in the mold in which we were initially cast. It is not easy to change, as habits become our masters all too soon. And it involves actively thinking about, and then acting upon, a part of us that normally gets no real thought at all.
Religions generally come with prepackaged sets of guiding principles to adopt. Conversion to a different religion often provides a set of guidelines that will often be at least somewhat different from the ones one had previously, together with a strong rationale (for the new believer) for adopting them. Many people are at least partially successful in updating their core principles, though I suspect that few can make changes that match the newly offered set completely. Some profess to very radical changes, which seems to me a rather extraordinary feat. I imagine that this happens less often than is bragged about.
The Honest, Insightful Donald Trump?
This topic was, interestingly, a rare moment of speaking the truth for Donald Trump. He described with some insight that, growing up in New York City, he would have different “values” than would someone who had grown up in Iowa. This led, later, to Ted Cruz’s comment on New York values, but the expression came from Trump himself. Trump’s comment about his values and Cruz’s observation about them were both correct. But it still cost Cruz a lot, perhaps the election, because of Trump’s and the media’s portrayal of it.
(I confess that “honest” and “insightful” do not usually come readily to my mind when I think of Mr. Trump. But he will win the election, and then we’ll see what results.)
That’s What I’m Talking About
To me, these “values” were the internalized guidance I’m talking about. And even in New York City, there will be much variation between individuals, largely from more local “societal” influences — just as will be true in Iowa. The “averages” of these in the two locales, though, will be clearly different, and that was Cruz’s point.
I’d be very careful indeed to suggest that, without Christianity (or some religious belief) one cannot have a useful set of internalized guidance. And I’d be more careful yet about suggesting that such internal guiding principles make up a “god” that non-believers worship. They are not even the God of Christianity for believers, though in the best of cases that Christianity has helped the believer to update the core guidance in good ways.
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
This piece has a bit of history. It was written during a time of soldiers being accused of horrific misdeeds. And it was personally approved by LtCol Oliver North. I was privileged to have dinner with Col. North several times in 2006 and 2007. An amazing and admirable man. Continue reading Memorial Tribute