LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF WHAT? IS HAPPINESS JOY OR LAUGHTER?

All Is Vanity” by C. Allan Gilbert, evoking the inevitable decay of life and beauty toward death. (from here)

The word “joy” occurs frequently in the Bible, but word “laughter” does not. Apparently, Christians should be joyful, but laughter poses a problem. We almost always share our joy with others, but too often we laugh at others instead of with them. I suppose that is why the Bible does not much encourage laughter.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-5 English Standard Version (ESV)

It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
    than to hear the song of fools.

We learn from adversity, not from being coddled. Nevertheless, there are times the Bible speaks of both laughter and joy. When the Jews returned from from Babylonian exile in the sixth century b.c., they recorded this psalm.

Psalm 126 English Standard Version (ESV)

Restore Our Fortunes, O Lord

A Song of Ascents.

126 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.

For a time — for a little while, at least — the Jews had learned to obey the Lord.

On July 4th we commemorate a victory. That victory resulted in the birth of a nation. After struggling to conquer a wilderness — after battling with King George III and his armies — Americans filled their mouths with laughter, and their tongues shouted with joy.

Yes, today is a time for celebration, but it is also a time for contemplation. Lest He send us there for year upon year, set aside a few moments to spend in the house of mourning. Learn about the cause of a nation’s struggles. Take time to remember sorrows from a distant past.

Take the time to cherish what those who preceded us have given us. Imagine the endless, hard work of nation building. Imagine the grief caused by failure. Imagine their joy and gratitude in success. Then, once you have remembered the reason for our joy, you will have cause to laugh.

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23 thoughts on “LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF WHAT? IS HAPPINESS JOY OR LAUGHTER?

  1. mike and brandy

    today, july 4th 2015, we are further from that freedom and closer to that same tyranny than ever before. reading the list of grievances that the colonies had with King George, I can’t help but see our current state with this government. truly, God help us. Because our Empire has become strong enough to ignore and refuse our efforts at redress.
    -mike

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am a bit of a nitpicker. So I noticed that term, “Empire,” and I promptly started picking at it. “Empire” seems to me a strange word to apply to the USA. I suppose many of the territories that make up this country were taken from Indians or Mexicans, but the colonists saw America as an empty wilderness.

      It is apparent the colonists thought the Indians as too different or ignorant for serious negotiations. There certainly were not many of them, and after the discovery of America, their numbers decreased. We will never know how many Indians died from smallpox and other European diseases.

      I am not exactly certain what the colonists thought of the Mexicans, but American did not seem to respect Mexico. Even so, Americans usually settled where the Mexicans were few in number. The vast majority of Mexicans in this country arrived the establishment of our current borders.

      Therefore, the vast majority of the citizens of the USA see themselves as Americans, not some other conquered nationality. The illegal aliens? That’s another matter.

      Perhaps you use the term “Empire” for another reason. You see president is trying to turn this nation into his Empire. For the sake of momentary material gains, you see our elites as supporting rash power grabs. If these power grabs continue, I do believe we will eventually look like an empire. However, we will not be a polyglot of conquered peoples. We will just be a nation of foolish people who allowed themselves to become the subjects of a scheming fellow with no apparent scruples.

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      1. mike and brandy

        right or wrong, I think the usa is already an empire. has been for a long, long time. present executive not withstanding. we are far from the original founders vision and on that I think we can both agree

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        1. I agree we have departed from the founder’s vision. We still have a democracy (no longer a true republic), but people do not honor the law or sufficiently respect the rights of their neighbors. So we have an unstable government.

          Here is a description that is worth a laugh.

          6. Democratic Republic

          Usually, a “democratic republic” is not democratic and is not a republic. A government that officially calls itself a “democratic republic” is usually a dictatorship. Communist dictatorships have been especially prone to use this term. For example, the official name of North Vietnam was “The Democratic Republic of Vietnam.” China uses a variant, “The People’s Republic of China.” (from here => http://depts.alverno.edu/dgp/GEC/Types%20of%20Government.html)

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        2. That quote was as I said, just for laughs.

          We can argue about whether America is a republic, a democracy, or an empire. However, at the rate we are going, we are going to have a democratic republic.

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  2. Happy Independence Day, Tom! I’m always reminded that we are in the pursuit of happiness, not in the state of having attained it. It is all about the pursuit. Happiness is a great thing for a few moments, but long term it tends to give us heart disease and other assorted afflictions 😉

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  3. Happy 4th Tom. I like that post a lot. You know, joy as described in the Bible and happiness are nor really synonymous. Happiness is a thing based on the circumstances we are in. Good circumstanced=happy, bad circumstances=unhappy. Christian joy is something that simply is, regardless of the circumstances, or is supposed to be anyway! Had to toss in that last statement, as I am no total success at this in my own life.

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    1. @Wally Fry, who wrote:

      Happiness is a thing based on the circumstances we are in. Good circumstanced=happy, bad circumstances=unhappy.

      I must strongly disagree.

      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” it 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, I have had to refine my own skills in this area, but I have been successful at this. My level of happiness cannot be merely a product of my circumstances, or I’d have been long gone.

      Best wishes for your celebration of Independence Day, and your pursuit of happiness.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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      1. Hey Keith

        Thanks for responding. I have see you on here often and find you make a lot of sense. I know you aren’t a Christian, but you are very much a reasonable voice. I appreciated that very much. As usual, you make some really great points. We certainly are capable of changing the way we react to circumstances in our lives. I would never say that all believers are necessarily joy filled, or that all non believers are denied joy. I also realize that what I said was very basic, which works well for me, as I am a very basic person. Can we train ourselves to improve our outlook and the way we consider our circumstances, even when they are bad ones? You bet we can. I can attest to that as I have face many difficult circumstances and have always been an upbeat, positive person. I was that way before I knew The Lord. So, you are correct…mostly LOL.

        You are probably aware, however, that my world view is based on my Christian beliefs and that certainly alters the way I consider joy. The joy I have is one based on knowing that, no matter what this life tosses at me, I have a better future awaiting me. But, as you pointed out, we certainly can do many things to develop skills to better deal with what life throws our way. That’s all I really meant by the difference between joy and happiness. Peace to you.

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      2. @ Keith

        Skills in attaining happiness. Given the unhappiness of so many people, I expect you could write a book and people would buy it. Of course, (if we set aside the Bible) Aristotle wrote the first such book, but too many have forgotten. And attaining virtue is hard work. If you don’t mind my asking, what are the skills you consider necessary for happiness?

        Anyway, I think we have problem here with semantics. Note that Wally Fry also used the term joy. While I don’t believe the Bible deprecates happiness (KJV), it uses the word joy to indicate the state of delight more often. Perhaps that explains how we use the terms today. I think most associate happiness with material well-being. Joy we associate with elation from a more spiritual source.

        Am I right, Wally?

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  4. Great reminders here CT-

    There is that thought: He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh………… and I’m guessing God’s laughter is so unlike ours. His is perfect,

    But who can beat the pure laughter of a child? The expression of joy without mischief. God always has it right: Unless ye be as a child, not meaning of course lacking knowledge, but that utter place that’s untainted and without bias, having faith and trust.

    In spite of all the downfalls, America at its worst is still better than most 😉

    Happy fourth to you also.

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  5. Cs, look out for The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created The Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi. It’s a whole new perspective on the true influence of the Bible.
    The author came to our church to speak , and the most stunning thing he said still gives me great discomfort.
    America has been a great force of good in the world because of its faithfulness, but if we turn from God, as we are, we will become a very great source of evil over the world. Think about it. We still wield great power and even greater influence and we export what we are.

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    1. Vishal Mangalwadi? Christianity never truly was a Western phenomenon, and it certainly isn’t anymore. I will try to check out the book, but what I want to read already exceeds my ability.
      😦

      If we turn from God, we won’t be what we were. What we will be God only knows. Count upon Him to deal with us.

      When Alexis De Tocqueville wrote “Democracy in America,” he described how we might fall. Here is an little excerpt => https://citizentom.com/2011/07/27/the-tyranny-of-the-majority/

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  6. Great reminder for all of us Tom. The need to always review “from whence we came” is an inportant part of the American experience. It seems as if the more we forget about our beginnings and the struggles for freedom that took place, the quicker we take them for granted and they are taken from us.

    May the Lord graciously intervene and grant our nation with much needed repentance as we continue on this downhill slide. Thanks for your role in reminding us of all these things Tom. May the Lord bless you. I trust you enjoyed your fourth of July.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      What our nation’s troubles indicate is the great need of the hour. We need to study the Bible. Thank you for teaching about our Lord’s Word, and bless you.

      Hope you enjoyed the 4th too.

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