"...I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)
Americans spend a lot of time and energy pursuing "the good life," and thanks to the "Mad Men" of the advertising world, we have a pretty good idea of what the good life looks like: A state-of-the-art home with all the amenities, a garage full of luxury automobiles, a closet full of designer clothes, all the latest technological gadgets, a well-diversified investment portfolio, an upwardly mobile career with cushy benefits... the list goes on and on. In a nutshell, we are told that the good life consists of feeling good, looking good, and having lots of stuff.
There's only one problem with this portrayal of the good life: It's not enough. It's never enough. It's like drinking salt water – the more you drink, the thirstier you get. And let's get real: the very purpose of advertising is to foster perpetual discontentment with the status quo. Remember that shiny new iPhone you waited hours in line for last year? It's now obsolete. Still in love with your LCD flat screen TV, or are you feeling behind the curve because you haven't joined the 3D technology bandwagon? Is the trusty family minivan a beloved symbol of family togetherness, or an embarrassing reminder that you haven't yet upgraded to an SUV replete with all the trimmings?
Despite the fact that we live in the freest country in the world – a land of unprecedented opportunities, liberties and advantages – study after study reveals that the more American's have, the less fulfilled and content we actually feel. The Thanksgiving season, then, is a good time to reflect on what truly constitutes the good life, and to look back at the original Thanksgiving story to see what it can teach us about the origins of true happiness.