Thursday, December 9, 2010

And the (Often Futile) Pursuit of Happiness

Where did this not-so-cheerful little draft come from?

I think I can track it:

- A longstanding fascination—usually charmed, sometimes alarmed—with the fact that “the pursuit of happiness” is a right guaranteed in our founding document.

- This book review, in which the following appeared: The title, of course, comes from the famous passage in the Declaration of Independence, which, Kalman tells us, would have read “life, liberty and the pursuit of property” had Thomas Jefferson not decided to change it. Was anyone ever more elated over an edit? “Hallelujah,” she writes. “All I can say is hallelujah.”

- A friend’s riffing on that idea, saying he’d “never seen real estate scamper away,” so he’d go with the more nimble “happiness.”

- Tony Hoagland’s poem “At the Galleria,” which he reads at 56:18 here. In the last lines, he makes a connection I feel all the time: that there is something American about loneliness, or something lonely about Americanness, or just some particular kind of American loneliness that we have yet to fully identify.

I’ve been wanting to write about the pursuit of happiness for years, but imagining it as quarry, as something fleet-of-foot and nimble, helped me start putting this on paper.


This poem escaped your clutches.

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