|Pursuing happiness and hammers|
A man much older and wiser than me once told me I had the most diverse taste in music of anyone he knew. From the Oak Ridge Boys to the Archies, from Bobby Darrin to Jerry Reed, from Janis Joplin to Donna Summer, from the Andrews Sisters to ZZ Top . . . truth to tell, there aren't many types of music I don't like - at least a little. Shucks, I even told my better half that it'd be kind of cool to have bagpipes at my funeral - a response which went over about as well as, uh, well, bagpipes playing.
At any rate, we had just seen the new Marvel movie, Thor: Ragnarok and I had Led Zeppelin's classic Immigrant Song playing at a level the good folks at Beltone wouldn't have been happy with. It was just me, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and -
John Hammer, a ginormous man with hands the size of ham hocks, was suddenly standing in my doorframe - the entire doorframe. I hadn't heard him come in. Then again, I never hear him come in. I can't prove this, but I think he takes great delight in somehow coming into our offices when they are closed and waiting until I least expect it and - BAM! It's like Emeril on steroids.
"People don't deserve to be happy," the big man growled in a voice that made 10 miles of gravel road sound smooth.
"Well Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, John," I managed while still trying to catch my breath. "But dang, even for you that's a bit harsh, don't you think?"
"No Timmons, I don't," he said "That's part of the problem with us today. Everyone thinks everyone deserves to be happy, to get what they want."
"OK, sure John. I get that. But wanting something and being happy are- "
"Things you have to earn, Timmons," he snapped.
I wasn't sure where the Hammer was going with this. I usually never am until he - pardon the pun - hammers the point home.
"How well do you know the Declaration of Independence, Timmons?" he asked.
"Well, I don't know," I stammered. "Uh, I mean I certainly know the gist of it. Like most Hoosier school kids, I think I had to memorize it, at least part of it, back in grade school. 'When in the course of human events- ' "
"Remember the second paragraph?" he asked.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident," I began, "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."
"That's the key, right there," Hammer said.
Heck, I was pretty proud of myself for getting that far. Now he wanted me to think some more? "I'm not following you, John."
"The founders said we had the right to pursue happiness," Hammer said, hitting the word - pardon the pun again - like a 16-pound sledgehammer on an 8-penny nail. "It doesn't say we are guaranteed happiness. It doesn't say we always get our way. It doesn't say happiness is that new phone or the biggest car or anything at the mall. It says we have the right to pursue happiness, Timmons."
He was right. I just hadn't thought about it that way.
"Everyone is real big on saying things were different back then," Hammer continued. "Critics all the time say if the founders were alive today everything would be different. Maybe. Maybe not. Seems to me that back then it took a lot of hard work to be happy, and that it was the work that helped define the level of happiness. Doing the work meant you accomplished something. People harvested crops so they'd have enough food to get through the winter. They chopped wood so enough was on hand to keep the family from freezing to death."
"You're damn right they pursued happiness, Timmons. They worked for it and celebrated after they got done. That's what you call pursuing happiness. There wasn't any guarantees. Hell, Timmons, there's never a guarantee. All we can and should get is a chance to work at it. Seems to me somewhere along the line that got lost. We forgot that pursuing happiness was a good thing."
Once more the Hammer was right. When we were growing up the process of getting there was often just as important as the end result. It made me think that at Thanksgiving especially it was a good lesson to remember. But when I looked up to tell him that, he was already gone.
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