Actually, Treebeard, Jefferson was very much an 18th century kind of guy, and was perfectly aware that pursuit of happiness meant not ever having it. Enlightenment folks were familiar with the classical notion that a person's life could never be said to be "happy" until after the person dies. After all, I can pretty comfortably affirm that I am happy right now--but that happiness is contingent on an indefinable future in which the elements that constitute my happiness might, and in many cases necessarily will disappear. SupposeI fall down the stairs when I go to let my cat in for the night or that tomorrow morning my son is killed going to school or my wife is diagnosed with cancer or my place of work goes bankrupt or nuclear war breaks out.<br><br>It's only when I am dead that those who survive me, if they care to think about it, can come to the conclusion that the shape of the life I led warrants being called "happy."<br><br>Jefferson was also familiar with the conundrum of human existence best defined by his older contemporary, Samuel Johnson, who says that "happiness lies on the right hand and on the left." The more one approaches the happiness on the right, the more one recedes from the happiness on the left. So, for instance, my wife and I decided that she would stay home without working full time until our son was in seventh grade. That led to a great deal of happiness for her, for him, for me. At the same time, it meant that my wife could not have the satisfaction of developing a career during the full course of her life, something that would also have made her happy. Happiness on the right and on the left. By the way, Freud expresses a version of that idea that's particularly apposite for this technological medium. It's great, he says in Civilization and Its Discontents that a parent who lives in New York can hop on an airplane and visit the child who lives in LA. On the other hand, the reason the child lives in LA is because technological advances (this in the 1920s) make it so easy to move from New York.<br><br>Anyway, all this suggests to me that Jefferson was perfectly aware of the ambiguity of "pursuit of happiness." I don't therefore think that he was writing duplicitously. He composed a public document, to be sure, but wrote for an educated readership that would have been as familiar as he was with the ideas of theEnlightenment and of the classical world.<br><br>And that's true too/--Shakespeare, King Lear
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