An Excerpt from the Diary of John Adams

Article by John Adams
12. Thursday. Friday. I know not what became of these days.

14. Saturday. I seem to have lost sight of the object that I resolved to pursue. Dreams and slumbers, sloth and negligence, will be the ruin of my schemes. However, I seem to be awake now; why can’t I keep awake? I have wrote Scripture pretty industriously this morning. Why am I so unreasonable as to expect happiness, and a solid, undisturbed contentment, amidst all the disorders and the continual rotations of worldly affairs?

Stability is nowhere to be found in that part of the universe that lies within our observation; the natural and the moral world are continually changing; the planets, with all their appendages, strike out their amazing circles round the sun; upon the earth one day is serene and clear, no cloud intercepts the kind influences of the sun, and all nature seems to flourish and look gay; but these delightful scenes soon vanish, and are succeeded by the gloom and darkness of the night; and, before the morning appears, the clouds gather, the winds rise, lightnings glare, and thunders bellow through the vast of heaven.

Man is sometimes flushed with joy, and transported with the full fury of sensual pleasure, and the next hour lies groaning under the bitter pangs of disappointment and adverse fortune. Thus, God has told us by the general constitution of the world, by the nature of all terrestrial enjoyments, and by the constitution of our own bodies, that this world was not designed for a lasting and a happy state, but rather for a state of moral discipline; that we might have a fair opportunity and continual incitement to labor after a cheerful resignation to all the events of Providence, after habits of virtue, self-government, and piety; and this temper of mind is in our power to acquire, and this alone can secure us against all the adversities of fortune, against all the malice of men, against all the operations of nature. A world in flames, and a whole system tumbling in ruins to the centre, have nothing terrifying in them to a man whose security is builded on the adamantine basis of good conscience and confirmed piety.

If I could but conform my life and conversation to my speculations, I should be happy. Have I hardiness enough to contend with Omnipotence? or have I cunning enough to elude Infinite Wisdom? or ingratitude enough to spurn at Infinite Goodness? The situation that I am in, and the advantages that I enjoy, are thought to be the best for me by Him who alone is competent to judge of fitness and propriety. Shall I then complain? Oh! madness, pride, impiety!

John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 2 (Diary, Notes of Debates, Autobiography) [1850]
Author: John Adams
Editor: Charles Francis Adams
(Contributed by daniel on Thursday, January 20th, 2011)
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Interesting to see how the essential dilemmas in life do not change over time
Love it!!! I find tremendous comfort in knowing that even great men of their time, struggled with the notion of perpetual happiness, or contentment. It seems that human nature is such that we were all born with the expectation that some state of being exists where our troubles, and challenges have faded away, and all that remains is happiness. It's ironic because the pursuit of this perpetually happy state is one of things that drives us to accomplish great things, while simultaneously leaving us frustrated because we don't receive the prize we desire most.
If there is any answer to this conundrum, it lies in the acceptance and gratitude of all experiences, but this is likely the same foolish pursuit disguised as a solution, and will only lead to the same end. As human beings it is our nature toil with the things, and states if thus earth. Moving from one to another, perpetually. We are meant to struggle, we are meant overcome great adversity, and we are meant to fail. We are meant to experience great joy, we are meant experience extended happiness and deep pain. It's in these emotional polar opposites that we are able to experience the full richness of life.
Spring always follows Winter, and it is always darkest before the dawn, and that is the experience of our world.


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