Instead, the prevailing culture insists that you derive your "happiness" from staying hitched to the constant plow of work, thus making some money so you can buy a car, watch TV, go to Disneyland. They've perverted the language, shifting the debate from real happiness to possessions -- and that is leaving a very big hole in our lives.
It's also leaving a gaping hole in our country, for it teaches that happiness is a function of individual attainment, not a community or national purpose. Merely measuring productivity and prosperity leaves most Americans today empty, for these crude measures ignore such essential human needs as public involvement, work-satisfaction, good health, free-time, environmental balance, spirituality ... connectedness to the common good. These are the true elements of happiness, both for individuals and the country.
Let's put the pursuit of happiness back into our political discussions. Even the straight-laced New York Times has noted this need, recently editorializing that: "The world looks ... as if it is being devoured by some grievous species -- partly because of narrow economic assumptions that govern the behavior of corporations and nations. ... A clearer understanding of what makes humans happy -- not merely more eager consumers or more productive workers -- might begin to reshape those assumptions [to better] the lives we lead and the world we live in."