As a young man approaching middle age, I often ask myself what it is that human beings truly seek. Material wealth and comfort appear on the surface to shape the thoughts and dictate the actions of many, but scratch a little deeper and you will find that the common goal of man is happiness and self-realization.
Throughout my youth I travelled the globe to gain insight into dreams and desires of mankind, to discover other modes of thought that may lead more adequately to the goals of happiness and self-realization. The more I saw as I explored the four corners of the earth, the more I had to ask myself: “Could it be that the way we view the abundant delicacies made by the merchants of the earth keeps us from obtaining our deepest longing, that is, happiness?”
I remain to this day unconvinced that material possessions are in and of themselves bad or evil, for it is only their use that determines their relative worth. That said, I have encountered very few people who do not worship at the altar of material possessions in some way. My observation is that happiness to them is fleeting – there for a moment when a goal or some object is obtained – and gone shortly thereafter as the band plays “The Thrill is Gone” in the background.
It seems that those who are happiest are least attached to their material possessions, regardless of whether they have many or few. I have two sets of friends who live quite simply, who’ve deliberately devoted their lives to “enjoying the basics,” and I have to say they are the most genuinely happy people I know. I’ve known others who have accumulated great wealth and who were also genuinely happy, but I think that there is abundant evidence indicating that wealth and an abundance of material possessions is no guarantor of happiness.
No wonder it was said the the “love of money is the root of all evil” and not “money is the root of all evil‘ as people often mistakenly quote. Happiness is the natural by-product of righteous living. I must admit that I hesitated to use the word “righteous” as it has so many undesirable connotations and obfuscating religious overlays.
Righteousness is life lived with integrity, honor and respect. Righteousness needn’t imply sacrifice or weakness, in fact, a life lived righteously is a life of natural abundance and strength. Righteousness is revealed through your decisions and actions, not in how they are perceived, for righteousness is rarely the popular choice nowadays.
We live in a world where the assumption of personal responsibility is at an all-time low and where the expectation of being cared for is at an all-time high. While I don’t know if this trend is due to complacency born of the decades of growth and prosperity we’ve enjoyed or if it is evidence of a larger cycle working out in the evolution of humanity, I do know that the wisest constitution and the most elegantly constructed laws will prove impotent in their ability to secure the happiness of a people whose lives do not square to an underlying pattern of righteousness.
This is the greatest challenge we face, dear readers: finding ways to inspire righteousness in a world that has grown jaded to the very concept. It is incumbent upon our parents, teachers, business and political leaders to raise the standard of righteousness once again by leading by example.
If it means that you will be unpopular for a while, so be it. Your happiness and the happiness of generations to come depends upon the restoration of this basic principle of living.