The Pursuit of Happiness

In these dark, threatening times we should, more than ever, be reaching out to others, sharing hope and joy; pursuing happiness. Instead, the chilling shadow of constantly predicted doom, sprayed over us by high pressure firehose, can easily darken our waking hours.

We are living through a vast war on so many fronts it’s hard to remember, through the lens of this endless multimedia blitzkrieg, how beautiful the ocean is, the sky, trees, the natural curiosity and playfulness of kids and other young animals, the faces of people we love. Happiness, it often seems now, will have to wait on a few major world factors changing for the better.

Meaning that to pursue happiness, we need to become part of the change we want to see in the world. It is on each of us now to figure out how to do our part carrying a mercilessly heavy burden to get us all to a better day. And figuring out how to remain as happy and decently human as possible while we do it.

As I was reading NY Times headlines on my phone late last night (while Sekhnet battled a little insomnia) I saw a reference to “doom scrolling”– an excellent description of exactly what I was doing, reading the newspaper at this perilous moment in human history.

It’s very scary not only here in the United States, life everywhere on the planet is imperiled, at war, trying to make sense of massive global chaos, violence and destruction — in the face of vigorous, constant, brazen propaganda, much of it insisting there’s no problem at all — except for irrationally enraged cranks intent on deception and violence. The whole problem, everyone seems to agree, is inchoately angry, vicious assholes on the other side of every damned issue!

I then, to my chagrin (since I was by then aware I was “doom scrolling”), clicked on an Op Ed that was one of the worst evocations of possible doom here in America that I’ve ever seen. Entitled Whose America is It? it makes the point that in these radically polarized times both sides see the opposing party as not only 100% wrong and despicably deluded, not only as enemies but as less than human.

We have learned over and over that dehumanization is the precondition for mass violence, you have to see an enemy as a disgusting piece of garbage before you can kick him in the face and then shoot him. It’s much harder to brutalize and kill a fellow human being, it seems.

I’ve been urged by my few good friends to disconnect from this soul-crushing cycle of violence that is the news, get out into nature, immerse myself in the preciousness of our world, refresh my spirit. I understand their point– unless I can figure out how to join with others to take effective action I am just marinating in a horror movie and spouting random opinions to nobody in particular. I vow to take a day off, enjoy the beautiful weather we’re having in NYC lately, be thankful that the air here is not toxic like on the west coast, that the pandemic is not ripping through here at the moment, that constant ambulance sirens are not shrieking by all night as they were a few months back.

I decide to start the day doing something I love. I will go downstairs to play the guitar, finish learning a musically ingenious song I’ve been working on, a beauty Louis Armstrong made popular a few years back. But, first, I’ll quickly catch up on the headlines, just for a second. In that second I see, no surprise, that this evil blowhard is pursuing his own perverse notion of happiness, making sure the world is ruled by his master’s irrefutable will, presumably a reflection of the divine will of this guy’s fervently beloved deity. Stops me in my tracks, it does.

No details really needed, here’s a picture of this dogged pursuer of happiness, from today’s news.

Presumably animated by his deep faith in the compassion and wisdom of the Christ he venerates, he gives a speech urging federal prosecution of protesters arguably exercising their First Amendment rights. He wants federal prosecutions of angry protesters under a draconian federal sedition law that allows imprisonment for twenty years for “sedition” which is, in common parlance, a synonym of “treason” [1].

Rings a bell. Weren’t the unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts, designed to muzzle political opponents, the downfall of the John Adams administration? [2]

Damn this mind of mine, and its endless interest in the idiocies of our most powerful humans that are recorded as history!

As soon as I finish editing this (won’t take long) I’m going to force myself to make that unpleasant call to try to resolve a large, surprise tax bill, make an appointment to have my clogged ears cleaned, and go finish mastering “Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)” on the piano as well as guitar. Playing it in time on the piano (mainly that Bbm7-9 Eb7-9 Eb7 Ab7 sequence) is a musical challenge so far that feels very much like the pursuit of happiness.

Happiness, happiness, and justice shall you pursue.

[1]

While seditious conspiracy is generally defined as conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state, treason is the more-serious offense of actively levying war against the United States or giving aid to its enemies.
Sedition – FindLaw

Sedition is defined as words or speech that incite people to rebel against the government or governing authority. Words that inspire a revolution that overthrows the government are an example of sedition.
Sedition dictionary definition | sedition defined – YourDictionary

[2]

The Alien and Sedition Acts were a series of four laws passed by the U.S. Congress in 1798 amid widespread fear that war with France was imminent. The four laws –which remain controversial to this day– restricted the activities of foreign residents in the country and limited freedom of speech and of the press. Mar 5, 2020
Alien and Sedition Acts – Definition, Significance & Purpose …

Follow the link above and we see that these partisan, free speech limiting laws were brought to you by our original Federalist party (talk about yer small world!) — under the headline:

Dueling Political Parties 

The Federalist Party, which supported a strong central government, had largely dominated politics in the new nation before 1796, when John Adams won election as the second U.S. president.

In opposition to the Federalists stood the Democratic-Republican Party, commonly known as Republicans or Jeffersonians for their ideological leader, Thomas Jefferson. Republicans wanted to reserve more power to state governments and accused the Federalists of leaning more towards a monarchical style of government.

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