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Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness

June 30, 2010 - This weekend we celebrate the 234th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America documented in the signing of the Declaration of Independence beginning July 4th, 1776.

Among other things, the Declaration of Independence states 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." Life is a given. We are alive and there are consequences for anyone who decides to take that right away from us. Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are another story.

Liberty is the freedom or right of the individual to act according to his or her own will. Despite the Declaration's statement to the contrary this right is necessarily restricted by the will of the people through their government.

Often an individual's pursuit of happiness involves the use of substances or activities the majority have found unacceptable. For example, the use of narcotics and the ability to take another's life or property are governed by the rule of law.

"We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately." These words of Benjamin Franklin were reportedly spoken at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Literally each of the signers of the Declaration would have been hanged for treason had the revolution not succeeded.

It is in our unity, standing together as one, that our greatest strength lies.

"Divide and conquer" is a common tactic in war, business and social interaction. People in power know their power comes from the consent of those who support them. To insure this support they often resort to a dividing tactic creating fear of the "others" who intend their supporters harm in some way.

They often resort to misleading or erroneous statements that generate an emotional response so that the faculty of logic is not engaged. If they repeat it often enough, people begin to believe it is true without investigation.

Unfortunately, our political debates tend to focus on these emotional topics that divide us rather than the substantive issues that could unite us.

In Christian terms, this is the way of the world: war, conflict, winning/losing, deception, trickery, where no one truly 'wins'. But there is a higher way that leads to true peace, freedom, liberty and happiness where we all win. "Peace I leave with you… not as the world gives do I give to you." (John 14:27)

The higher way is acknowledging and realizing our interdependent unity. "No man is an island, entire of itself;" states noted clergyman John Donne, "every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."

I invite you to begin to think in terms of our interdependent unity. Find ways to transcend the inherent conflict of personal interests and expand your conscious expression to support the greater good for all of God's creation.

Recovery is a 'we' process. Together we can do all things. Separately, we only partially fulfill our potential. One way to increase your awareness of 'we' is to join the We Campaign. See www.we.net for more information.

Matthew E. Long is senior minister

at Peace Unity Church & Holistic Center.

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