Gallagher: The purpose and meaning of life is happiness |

Gallagher: The purpose and meaning of life is happiness

R.J. Gallagher Jr.

“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they did not understand life.” — John Lennon

Please let me share with you something that I am guessing you did not know. On June 28, 2012, the International Day of Happiness (or Happiness Day) was founded by the United Nations General Assembly. All 193 member states unanimously adopted U.N. resolution 66/281 and chose March 20 of each year as the International Day of Happiness.

Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/281 states in pertinent part:

“Balloons of Happiness

The general assembly, … conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, … recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples, decides to proclaim March 20 the International Day of Happiness, invites all member states, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including nongovernmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities.”

Please read the above resolution again. And again. Does this not sound like sound advice for our little corner of the world to emulate? For me, it is a call to action to get out there and make a difference. Get involved. Get proactive. Get happy.

As a result of this resolution, the U.N. has now defined a new economic paradigm. Heads of state, ministers and high-level delegates from more than 30 countries and intergovernmental organizations have stated in pertinent:

“We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.”

Damn, those folks are good. And happy.

What I have always believed is that anyone and everyone can make a difference in some meaningful way. And when you do you will exponentially pay happiness forward. If you attended any of the Shining Stars’ gatherings this past weekend in Aspen, you know exactly what I mean. Beyond.

One person who has made a huge difference is Jayme Illien, founder of the International Day of Happiness. Illien gained the support for the idea of the new International Day of Happiness from the president of the U.N. General Assembly and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Together, they then garnered the support of all 193 U.N. member states to draft and adopt a new resolution to create the new international day of recognition. Illien conceptualized the idea for a U.N. resolution that would recognize the pursuit of happiness as a human right and a “fundamental human goal.” Booya for that!

As a quick background, Illien was an orphan rescued from the streets of Calcutta, India, by Mother Teresa’s International Mission of Hope charities. She was later adopted by Anna Belle Illien. After agreeing to adopt Jayme, Anna Belle Illien founded Illien Adoptions International Inc., a nonprofit child social-welfare and international adoption agency based in Atlanta.

Did you follow all of that? If not, I will summarize it for you. A rescued orphan from Calcutta authored and engineered the passing of a resolution to be happy with all of the participating member states of the United Nations based on happiness being a “fundamental human goal.” Jayme has served and continues to serve as a consultant to the United Nations. Proof positive that your world is all you make of it.

The pursuit of happiness has been a singular objective for all of mankind since there has been a mankind. Here is a list of some folks you may have heard of who have made their mark with society in search of the little, yellow button with the happy face on it: Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, Aristotle, Plato, Epicurus and religious figures like Jesus, Abraham, Moses and the prophet Muhammad. All of these movers and shakers theorized about the purpose and meaning of life, which includes the definition of happiness. Smile on.

Think of all the money and resources you have invested in whatever you have to achieve happiness. I have an idea idea for you: volunteer. I am guaranteeing that you will be rewarded by achieving a 100 percent state of happiness. Prove me wrong. If you have never volunteered, give it a try. If you already do participate, keep it up and get others to join you. Happiness loves company.

For years I have signed off on most of my email communications with the statement, “Stay happy.” Skippy Mesirow, a very engaged millennial, founder of Aspen Next Gen and a current seated member of the City of Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission, told me he loved it and asked if he could use it. I said absolutely, but for a price. He had to pass it on. He has.

Happiness is contagious. Just ask Skippy.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He has proudly served and continues to serve on numerous nonprofit boards including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. Philantopia is a monthly column of The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.’s always open for ideas. You can reach out to him at

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