Seeking pursuit of happiness in 'winter'

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It seems we have come full circle — complaining about everything so much that we’ve come to believe the country is on the fast track to the dumpster. Negativity is an awful trait in families, work places or a nation.

We should re-examine our “pursuit of happiness.”

If you like John Steinbeck, you’ve likely read “The Winter of our Discontent.” In it, protagonist Ethan Hawley is a bitter man and blames the bank for the loss of his father’s family fortune. Ethan then begins a series of compromising his morals, engaging in cheating, thieving and, eventually, learning that his son has adopted his guilt-free attitude at gain at the expense of another person.

It’s a depressing book, and it is easy to compare it to today, where we make societal and political compromises almost daily to justify our belief that we are a society in decline — income stagnation, shrinking middle class and other issues.

I once taught a Sunday school class in my hometown and tried to present open-minded discussions centered around our faith. Almost weekly, I found myself discouraged by the classmates, mostly older, who insisted that the country’s best days were behind it.

When I posed the suggestion that the 1950s were not great for everyone, particularly if one’s skin was black or brown, they seemed incredulous, as if that were ancient history. They seemed unwilling to even examine our country’s checkered history with rights and how we might reconcile this.

That, along with my brother’s death, discouraged me and I fell away from my faith for a while. I lost some confidence in my fellow Christians and mostly in myself. I didn’t provide an optimistic tone and I chose to focus on the negative instead of working harder to expose the good things and our faith’s inherent strength.

It happens, but we shouldn’t let that define us. But it seems like today this negativity about politics, faith and our fellow man is so deeply ingrained. We’re also narcissistic enough to believe it’s not us, it’s society. “All men are moral. Only their neighbors are not,” is a line from the Steinbeck book.

It’s time we focus on “the pursuit of happiness,” that third ideal in the Declaration of Independence that some believe was added as simple window dressing.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Constitutional scholars think Thomas Jefferson borrowed from Englishman John Locke and fellow patriot George Mason, who included a similar phrase in Virginia’s Declaration of Rights.