Today in the United States is Independence Day. Historically, we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. Outwardly, we acknowledge the efforts of our forefathers when they proclaimed their independence by saying “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Inwardly, we sense that there is some greater truth in that statement.
Although these truths may be self-evident, we continue to consider them and debate them over 200 years later. What do we mean by the fact that “all Men are created equal”? Who is this “Creator”? What are these “Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” that we hold so dear? There are probably as many answers
to these questions as there are people considering them.
Here are just a few thoughts of mine on the questions – First, I find it interesting that our forefathers opted to capitalize certain words in that statement – Truths, Men, Creator, Rights, Life, Liberty, Pursuit, Happiness. Why did they do that? Simply to emphasize the words? That’s what many believe, and in many reprints of the document, we frequently see it “corrected” by the removal of the capitalization.
Yet in many circles, capitalizing such words implies that they stand for the use of the word in its broadest, most inclusive, macrocosmic meaning. These are the biggest Truths of all. We are talking about Men in the collective sense. The “Creator” is the biggest idea we can imagine and attach to that word. When we discuss our Rights, we are moving beyond any limited sense of how they play out in our individual lives and into the realm of considering our collective Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.
What is the biggest idea of a Creator? Is our biggest idea someone who looks human, sits separate from us and judges us upon our death? Is our biggest idea to deny that there is any Creator? I don’t know about you, but both of these ideas seem rather limiting. To me, the biggest idea of a Creator is so big that it extends beyond my limited comprehension. Certainly this Creator set the physical world and its evolutionary processes in play. Certainly this Creator embedded an intelligence within all aspects of the world. Certainly this Creator allowed the development of consciousness within humans so that we could be aware that we have “Life”, so that we could experience “Liberty” and set off on the mysterious and magical “Pursuit of Happiness”. Certainly this Creator has “created” things we may never understand.
Yet here we are – each of us conscious, thinking human beings experiencing this thing called “Life”. In that experience, we look outwardly at our physical existence and judge it. We celebrate where we see liberty and freedom in our lives. We complain when we believe our external liberties and freedom are being denied. This outward gaze at our life all too often causes us to define whether we have attained happiness by our material success.
Ah, but I believe “Life” is more than our physical experience. Yes there is some force that seems to animate our bodies which we call “life”– when our bodies are functioning we have it, when they stopped functioning we don’t. But at some level we know that Life is more. Inwardly, we have a sense of awareness – our thoughts and consciousness as well. Many believe this awareness is simply a byproduct of the firing of the neurons within our brains while our bodies contain “life”. I believe that’s a limited vision of life and our state of awareness. To me, the biggest idea of Life incorporates this inner world.
When we move beyond the conditions in our outer lives, we can sense that we have an inner freedom, an inner liberty – one where we are free to choose our thoughts. This was the freedom sensed by Victor Frankl has he sat in a Nazi concentration camp and realized that no matter how much is outer freedom was denied, no one could deny his inner freedom to choose his thoughts and reactions. This is true “Liberty” in the biggest most expansive sense.
When we embrace this inner Liberty, then we recognize that the pursuit of happiness is not tied to external circumstances but rather our choices within our consciousness. Happiness does not come from “stuff out there”, it’s a choice we make every moment with our freedom. The biggest most expansive vision of the sense of Freedom comes with our ability to reframe our lives in spite of outer circumstances. The highest idea of happiness that I can conjure up comes not from the limitations of the physical world but rather from the choice to see beyond any limitations and focus my attention on the gifts that I already have – my life and my liberty of thought which allows me to choose happiness right here, right now. And the interesting irony is this – the more I choose happiness inwardly, the more it tends to show up outwardly!
So today, as we celebrate the independence of the United States and the glorious personal freedoms that were set in play by the creation of our government, let us also celebrate the biggest, most expansive sense of freedom possible – that which comes from within each one of us. Let us also celebrate and honor the existence of this freedom within each and every person. Let us always remember that each and every one of us was created equal, that that biggest idea we can imagine of the Creator put within each and every one of us this wonderful gift we call Life, the Freedom to choose our thoughts and a desire to eternally pursue Happiness.
Happy Independence Day – every day!
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!