Aphorisms Unplugged: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

ife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
doesn’t mean what you probably think it means.

Sometimes that well-worn adage doesn’t really mean what our literal-minded, text-focused, Google-driven world thinks it means. One reason this happens is that, quite simply, language evolves.

To further complicate matters, as with books, all too often the context of these popular wisdoms has been forgotten. Though these aphorisms may still contain some good advice, their original message is typically richer and more profound than our contemporary interpretation.

This Book is Banned proffers a few proverbs, sayings, and other pearls of wisdom that have been unplugged,” as it were. We’ve rebooted, gone back-to-basics, and re-discovered their intended message. For example:

Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness.

This oft-quoted phrase is, of course, an inventory of the unalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence. And, given today’s sensibilities, this expression sounds like it means we have the right to do whatever makes us feel good.

However, in the eighteenth century, the word happiness meant more than just doing your own thing. What it conveyed was the deeper, more significant concept of human flourishing.

Though happiness was indeed seen as a private right, more importantly, it was also understood as a public duty…  to live an honorable and principled life in order to ensure that all members of society could flourish and thrive.[1] And that’s a far cry from permission to “just do you.”



[1] Conklin, Carli N. “The Origins of the Pursuit of Happiness.” Washington University Jurisprudence Review. Volume 7, Issue 2, 2015.

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Check out more unplugged proverbs, sayings, and other pearls of wisdom here.

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