Life, liberty and the acquisition of happiness

We visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  I knew the bare minimum on TJ before going to Monticello but I feel I know him much better after the visit.  We started our time at Monticello by watching a short video and near the beginning was a quote by Jefferson that really stood out to me…

The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.

Wow…TJ and I think alike!  Our family has always made it a point to spend mornings together before school, we walk the elementary kids to and from school, and we eat dinner together even with busy soccer, robotics and dance schedules.  We make it a point to go to church together and we try to have some leisure time together on the weekends when time allows.  I love love love this time together.  But like Jefferson I felt like these moments were relatively few or, maybe more appropriately, that they were going by too fast.

But now, the last 3+ months has been a great family togetherness binge fest.  We have been driving together, schooling together, working together, cooking together, eating together, exploring together, learning together, reading together, writing together…everything is together.  Oh, we’ve all had our moments where together is too much, but when a wave of that hits me I try to take a deep breath and enjoy this time that is fleeting.  This time of constant family togetherness.

Jefferson had some other things to say about happiness.

A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity.

It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquillity and occupation which give happiness.

Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.

If I were to sum all of these quotes up (using perhaps Huck biased mathematics) it would be that happiness is health, relationships, inquisitiveness and serving.

  • Health – Nobody will argue about health bringing happiness.  Who doesn’t want to feel good and be free of aches and pains with a clear head and no worries?
  • Relationships – I believe we were created to be relational beings so it only makes sense then that relationships bring us happiness.  Jefferson mentions his family but I think it extends to our friends, neighbors, coworkers, church family and our Creator.
  • Inquisitiveness – Our brains are amazingly complicated machines and since happiness is a feeling that originates in our cranial CPU I think it makes sense that exercising our brain increases happiness.  Asking questions, searching for answers, solving problems, remembering the past and dreaming about the future makes neurons fire, chemicals release and happiness increase.
  • Serving – What about serving?  Jefferson didn’t mention serving but he did mention occupation and whether your occupation is stay at home mom, banker, barista, welder, teacher, lawyer or president of the United States you are serving others.  Serving others gives us purpose and makes us feel like we are making a difference and that we are needed.  If our occupations give us a well in which to fetch out a bucket of happiness then volunteer opportunities are like a great geyser spewing out and drenching the volunteer and all who they serve in happiness.

Probably the most well known quote of Jefferson’s (the only one I was familiar with before our visit to Monticello) is right there in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence

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…

When I read that today and I reflected on the above 4 ingredients of happiness I realized that I am not in pursuit of happiness, rather I have acquired happiness!  I am a happy man.  So what next?  Nothing less than acquiring still more happiness of course.  I am now in pursuit of increased happiness!

Alright, this post got a little deeper than I’m used to.  Sorry about that.

Jefferson also believed that agriculture was one of the keys to happiness and he had a fantastic garden.  I know many gardeners who feel very happy when they are getting their hands dirty and cultivating life.  Our garden back in Longmont is not super bountiful but I hope to continue building my knowledge and skills in this area once we return to Longmont.

Here is one more of Jefferson’s quotes on happiness…

Traveling makes a man wiser, but less happy.

WHAT YOU TALKIN’ ABOUT TJ?!!  I can only reason that he was talking specifically about business trips!

Need a boat

Kids with TJ

Singing in the rain

The ladies

Monticello back

West lawn

Poppy suprise

What's inside?


Captive audience

Locking the door


Dumb waiter

Monticello front

Awkward thumb wars

Overlooking TJs garden

The kids

More garden


Mulberry row talk


Dacen in the garden




Cracking the code

Brielle playing servant

Working the bellows

Caden's plan


The tower and its builder

Dacen's monument

TJ was a gardener

Niiiice hat


One thought on “Life, liberty and the acquisition of happiness

  • May 9, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    And I might get to start planting in the next couple of weeks! Geeze to be able to grow stuff this early wow!!!! Go TJ!


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