Obama, Moon River, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Disclaimer #1: I know I’m about four days late in bothering to write about this; sorry, gang, I do sort of have a Real Life. Disclaimer #2: I’m going to assume you are aware that last week was the Democratic National Convention, that Barak Obama gave a speech, that you watched it, and that if you wanted a full rundown and insightful commentary that you have already gone elsewhere.

OK, here’s the line that caught me most:

Instead, it is that American spirit that American promise that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; That makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

Now, I’m glad I’m not the only one who instantly thought of Moon River at that line.

Two drifters
Off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world
To see…

We’re after the same rainbow’s end
Waiting around the bend
My Huckleberry friend
Moon River and me…

I love this. I think it totally taps into a deep well of What It Means To Be American™, the sense that our hearts desire is somewhere out there just beyond reach…

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further…and one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

4 thoughts on “Obama, Moon River, and the Pursuit of Happiness”

  1. I’ll admit, the similarities to Moon River were lost on me. One thing that has been bothering me for a while is this notion, expressed mostly by politicians, that the desire to succeed and the ability to dream of a brighter future are somehow uniquely American traits. It’s not as if people in other countries are incapable of imagining a better tomorrow. Whether they live in a country where there are ample opportunities to make those dreams real is, of course, another story. Whenever I think my life is lacking I remind myself that I’m living the dream of someone, somewhere else – just by virtue of having access to things like food, running water, electricity, medicine and so on. America might be a nation of dreamers but it’s only because we’ve attained so many of the basic necessities that we have the luxury of fixating on things we don’t always need or can realistically attain – that’s a far cry from the dreams of the early settlers whose daily lives were ones of struggle.

    On a related note, Jules Pfeiffer wrote “The difference between the European and the American is that the European knows he is going to lose and sighs. The American knows he is going to lose and screams.” Or something to that effect – I’m quoting from memory.

  2. I don’t think anybody’s saying that only Americans dream of a brighter future.

    I think it is a shared national trait/delusion to think that attaining your dreams will make you happy and content. Humans are just wired to always want more. How you deal with that is one of the things that makes you what you are as a person or as a culture.

    I personally believe in sort of a buddhist “middle way” in these things. Realizing that bottomless desire is a fact of human nature, if you follow all your desires, you are ruled by them, if you try to squash all your desires, you are ruled by them in another way. There’s not really a way out, but you can make a habit of re-focusing on the things that actually make you happy, and in helping other people be happy, too.

  3. Over the years I’ve come to realize that satisfaction is most easily achieved by adhering to the Taoist concept of wu wei and the Socratic Golden Mean. Of course, I could just be trying to justify my laziness and all that time spent in C&T.

    But most days I believe it.

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