"But fortunately they [Gogol and his wife] have not considered it their duty to stay married...They are not willing to accept, to adjust, to settle for something less than their ideal of happiness. That pressure has given way...to American common sense."
We the people--i.e. we the citizens of America--are programmed to pursue happiness. We even had the quest for it conveniently inscribed in our "Declaration of Independence," a document which sanctifies the appetite as a God-given "inalienable right." But here's the rub: what if it's a bad idea to install happiness as the lodestar, the north pole according to which the entirety of our lives is aligned? What if happiness doesn't point "true north"? What if our desires are corrupted? Indeed, it seems that according to a Christian worldview, that's precisely the case: it is a bad idea; happiness doesn't point "true north"; our desires have been corrupted. All that to say: Christianity doesn't make much room for "American common sense."
To be clear, I'm not suggesting that Christianity's against happiness. In fact, Christians have cause to be the most indomitably happy of all. As a London taxi driver once said (quoted often by N. T. Wright): "If God did raise Jesus Christ from the dead, all the rest is rock 'n roll." The key difference is that happiness can't be had on our own terms; it must be purified, realigned in accordance with the truth of the gospel. Jesus's command "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me" undermines, subverts, counteracts, deconstructs, etc., our natural "ideal of happiness." It summons us to do hard and ostensibly stupid things. But, for those who obey, they discover that the command instills a measure of happiness which can't even begin to be estimated. As Lewis's vignette goes, Jesus's call is the "holiday by the sea" which we must be taught to want. I hope my eyes and hands aren't too preoccupied with the mud pies to listen to what he's saying.