What would I want to tell those I care about?

I just finished Jordan Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life.  I found it extremely insightful, provoking, even inspirational.  He ended the book by writing his thoughts on various problems and people in his life.  One of the overarching principles of the book is to tell the truth or at least don’t lie.  I began thinking about what I wanted to say to many people whom I care deeply about (including myself).  A lot of times we don’t tell people what we need to because perhaps we are afraid it will offend them.  So without further ado, I present to you a little truth-telling, things that I think it’s important for those I care about to know.

Truth

Truth is utterly important; you need to investigate truth in every area of life. Truth cannot just be felt but must be investigated.  This is because 90% truth can be mixed with 10% lie which will lead to building your house on sand.  Many people, instead of seeking truth, seek acceptance from peers.  This is a major trap.

Forgive your Parents

Forgive your father and mother for their faults.  That forgiveness will bring healing to your soul just as it will towards their souls.  Your parents are always your parents, no matter how much they fail.  Not forgiving them will scar your own life more than pay them back for whatever they may have done to you.  Forgiveness does not mean letting someone hurt you repeatedly, having no boundaries, or being naive.  It means not paying that person back for their sins, letting go of your need for that.  Don’t let anyone or anything poison your relationship with your family.

Uncomfortable Relationships

Move towards uncomfortable relationships, even with people that you might not normally befriend. So many of us live in relational enclaves, echo chambers, surrounding ourselves with only those people who never challenge us to think or live differently.  Granted, we can’t be very deep friends with people we have nothing in common with, but there are people who hold different viewpoints than us who still have a lot in common with us.

Friendships

Know who your real friends are. Many people who you think are your friends are really not.  The moment your attractiveness fades and trouble rears its head in your life, many of these people will abandon ship. Figure out who the real friends are and spend time with them.

Anxiety of Others

Don’t let other people’s anxiety and controlling tendencies get to you.  You don’t have to take that on or try to fix them.  Don’t let others’ anxiety smother you.  Make sure to make room for some self-care, solitude, and other disciplines that bring you nearer to God and yourself when around them.  

Marriage

Continue to strive to work on yourself and your marriage.  Don’t give into the lie that marriage can be easy as pie.  It’s a sacrificial endeavor where we have to die to ourselves, but that brings new life.  Marriage is for others, not just yourself.  Hold your spouse accountable while still finding your true life and value in God.  Communicate clearly and apologize when you blow it.

Investigate Jesus

Investigate Jesus more.  He’s more than a spiritual teacher.  He’s more than one guide among many.  He is THE guide whom all the other guides, when they were speaking rightly, were ultimately pointing to.  He is the the TRUE life, the way, the truth, the resurrection, the living water.  He doesn’t exclude you or others but always lovingly invites you to come to him.  And don’t you think it’s peculiar that there is so much evidence for his life, death, and even resurrection?  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then it’s time to investigate.

Find your Life

Seek to find your life in God.  Many of us say we believe in God, Christianity and so on, but we don’t have much of an actual relationship with God.  When you begin to truly experience his love, that will begin to transform you into an increasingly loving person, the person you know you were made to be.

Life in God isn’t formulaic

Don’t get too hung up on some kind of formula in your relationship with God.  Prayer, and Scripture reading are key, but there is also meditation on Scripture, listening for his voice, solitude, silence and being out in nature.  Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympian and missionary, used to feel God’s pleasure when he was running.  I feel it when I do jiu-jitsu, when I get to speak, or when I write.  Maybe you feel it when you are engaging in something you were called to do.

Work on yourself before society

Work on yourself before you work on society.  I haven’t always been the best example of this.  But how are we going to change others if we ourselves are not a good example?  We can’t go out there on a crusade to change everything in society unless we are living out a better version of what it is we critique.

Narrow your focus

Narrow your focus.  If you are interested in lots of stuff, being excellent demands that you hone in and focus on a few of those areas.  Personally, I’ve struggled with this.  It takes self-knowledge to figure out what we should focus on.  Every choice to cultivate one thing means not doing other things.  Be willing to make a choice and go for it, even when that closes you off to other possibilities.  Further, God will be with you and use you in any number of areas, not just “religious” vocations.

Trust, don’t freak out

Remember to trust the Lord, especially if you are an anxious person.  God is probably putting you in places that show you clearly that you have less control than you thought.  That’s ok.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Now to practice what I preach.  Shalom.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

 

 

Blaise Pascal’s three ways to know truth from bullshit

Tradition, reason, and experience.  Whether we know it or not, these three ways lead us to our creeds.  Some believe out of tradition, simply following what their ancestors taught.  Others believe because of reason, investigating arguments that lead them to rational conclusions.  Others believe out of existential experience, finding more poetic and inspirational ways to knowledge.  Whether one’s position is secular or religious, these three ways guide our footsteps.

Many of us are skeptical of tradition.  We recognize that tradition is not always a safe method of finding the truth.  But we ought not be overconfident about that.  G.K. Chesterton once called tradition the “democracy of the dead.”  It ought to have some staying power because it represents the votes of our forebears.  For this reason, I’m unwilling to throw out all tradition.  In fact, we need tradition, and if we don’t follow our family’s tradition we will simply look for some other tradition to link up with.  Many traditions in our modern milieu can look utterly non-religious.  They may take the form of a club, a sport, a philosophy, let alone a religion. Traditions usually have some form of repetitive rituals that give meaning to a community.  Traditions also may include Scripture, the notion that a higher order of intelligence, such as God or the gods, has revealed certain things to be true. Scripture has advantages if true because it allows humans to access something beyond the normal realm of human investigation.  At the same time, it seems to me that any claim of Scripture should be open to verification or falsification. In our secular culture, we often experience the cross-pressures of many different traditions. There may be political, religious, and social traditions, pulling us in different directions.  Tradition provides a pattern of life we can conform to that may have more wisdom than anything we can come up with on our own.

Reason has been trumpeted by the new atheists as the ultimate arbiter of truth.  I actually, though not an atheist, partially agree with them on this statement. Without reason, belief claims appear vapid and void of all substance. Just like in Orwell’s novel 1984, 2+2 could then equal five.  Yet there is still a problem with a naive faith in reason; if our character is distorted, that will influence how we interpret the facts and evidence.  Since people are so easily swayed by emotions, traditions, pop-culture, moral practices, and personal psychology, these will affect our reasoning processes.  In other words, reason will always be limited by the character of the reasoner.  At the same time, the tradition and existential experience have no basis without reason.  We must be have strong evidence to support our beliefs.

Existential experience is a powerful pull for people today. Many, if not most in Western culture, are what sociologists have termed “expressive individualists.” Philosopher James Smith defines this as the tendency to see life as something that we each individually need to realize for ourselves. We believe that we are called to express that way of life rather than conform it to models given to us or imposed by others. The goal of life is therefore authenticity rather than living out a tradition or a reasonable point of view. A quick glance at our fascination with actors and musicians will verify our commitment to the expressive way of life. Many also look to the pragmatic to determine truth, to what works versus what doesn’t work.  The expressive individualists have a point in all this. We ought to seek know ourselves, and this is an intensely personal and individual quest. But at what cost do we express ourselves when the facts and external reality are at odds with us? This is where tradition and reason can help sort out our true-selves from our muddled false-selves. Harry Frankfurt points out in his masterful book, On Bullshit, that it is impossible to be authentic unless there is a truth about ourselves that we can be authentic about. And generally speaking, reason and tradition help experience find that truth.

The philosopher and inventor Blaise Pascal once pointed out that every religion has tradition and experience. But no religion but Christianity has reason. That’s a very strong claim. And Pascal’s statement applies not just to religions but also non-religious views of the world. Now, I can’t begin to defend this claim as a whole in this article.  That would take an entire book.  But let’s look at the claim briefly. Did you realize that we have very little historical access to most religious claims? Most religions are set so far into the past that historians cannot access them, and most do not depend on historical facts being true anyways. The great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam do have much overlap with history, however. This adds a huge evidential component. The claims can be investigated.  Along with history, we also have to ask whether a religion or a philosophy is coherent or not. Without naming names, I’ll just put out there that many religions and philosophies, while containing beauty and even promoting goodness, are incoherent. They make claims that are self-refuting or logic denying.  Pascal claims that only Christianity can truly pass the test of reason. The only way to find out if that’s true would be to investigate it for yourself.  Maybe you’ll come up with different conclusions.

In the pursuit of truth, tradition, reason, and experience each play a crucial role.  Might it be that some have only used one or two of these means of discovery when all three can shed light on the truth? Truth ultimately is the most beautiful thing we can find, even when it may bring pain and loss.  Discovering truth is much like what St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians.  “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).  If that or something much like that is true, who wouldn’t want to know it?

 

Are You a Grace or a Truth Person?

Most people are either geared towards grace or truth. Either we believe in unconditional love and forgiveness or we tend to put a higher focus on what is true and right. Sometimes we are grace oriented in one sphere of life and truth in another. There is a way, however, to bring both grace and truth into every area of our lives, and if we think about it, we desperately need both. Let me explain what I mean.

Grace oriented people often see how deeply weak and wounded most people are, including themselves. Their creed is a “all we need is love,” always looking for redemption. They often point out that the truth people are hypocritical. Truth people tend to emphasize what is right and true and sometimes exclude anyone who does not conform to their standards. This can be seen perhaps most starkly in religious people who appear to have little love or compassion for the sins of others. If you are a grace person, you are probably nodding your head here. Does not attachment theory in psychology tell us that the love we received or failed to receive as a child powerfully impacts us? Only healthy, loving attachments can heal those wounds, and who is more loving that almighty God, who, according to Christianity “is love”? Therefore, the grace person mostly concerns herself with loving others, giving them uncritical freedom. She thinks we should rarely correct or judge behavior to be wrong even if we see how destructive it is.

Grace people, however, have to realize that there is a limit to their perspective. Truth actually does matter. Truth leads to wisdom and boundaries. It highlights the stark realities of human nature. Though we sometimes look like we are born from angel dust, more often than not we appear born from sin. How many of us have been left trembling by the callous, selfish, and outrageous actions of people we thought were incapable of such things? And how much worse when we realize how selfish we ourselves can be. Anyone who has studied history will know how brutal the past was; the present is not that much better. In our own century, we had the Nazi (National socialist) and Communist regimes, both of which together inflicted over 100 million casualties in their pursuit of utopia (Utopia is ironically a very grace-oriented idea). And we all know that even forgiveness does not mean letting other people hurt you again and again. Forgiveness means letting go of need to inflict justice over a wrong, not making the person pay anymore. It does not mean forgetting what happened or stupidly leaving ourselves open to more abuse. Grace has limits, at least in the sense that people often refuse it and go their own way.

Truth people will be nodding their head to all that I’ve said in the last paragraph. They care about facts, right and wrong, and reality. They see the outcome of flakey philosophies which state that there is no truth or that everyone should be equal in every way. These notions are not grounded in any facts. Truth people understand simple biological facts about gender differences. They are astounded at the mob mentality of social media. They can see when people are doing something self-destructive or irrational and usually are the first ones to point it out. They also note that the grace people have a pattern of being hypocritically intolerant of anyone they think does not belong to the grace-tribe.
But truth people need to see that even they fall short of their own standards. How good is really good enough? This is especially true as it relates to relationship with the Almighty. Nobody is capable of being perfect, says Paul. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus told parables about self-righteous people like the pharisee who “thanked God he was not like everyone else” and the elder brother who refused to go into the party the Father had laid out for the wasteful younger brother (Luke 18, Luke 15). Truth without grace ultimately crushes the truth person under the weight of the law that they themselves have failed to keep. It often leads to callouse self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and mere outward conformity to the rules. All the while the truth person is desperately trying to cover up his own need for grace and forgiveness.

For all these reasons grace without truth and truth without grace are incomplete. Only in Jesus Christ can we really put the two together. How so? Jesus Christ is the one who embodied these two realities perfectly, so in him we have a perfect example of what it looks like. He could speak a word of truth with absolute love. Just read the gospels to see for yourself. But more than that, Jesus loved us to death, literally, showing us how we can reconcile grace with truth. At the cross, “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10). Jesus bore our sins and the weight of God’s justice on the cross to reveal God’s great unconditional love. The cross turns our grace into real grace that recognizes falsehood and sin, rather than just overlooking it or explaining it away. The person who zealously strives to balance grace and truth without Jesus has to ask herself a question. What philosophy or religion has ever united grace and truth in a more coherent, beautiful, and historically accessible way than that of Jesus Christ? Often I suspect that the rejection of Jesus Christ, either outright or in practice, is for one of two reasons. Either the truth person does not want to accept that radical message of forgiveness available to the worst offenders who embrace Jesus, or the grace person does not want to accept that God would speak clearly in a way that seems to exclude those who don’t accept it. But Jesus can offer forgiveness in a way that bears the weight of truth while telling the truth in a way that beckons in grace to the loneliest outcast. “In him we have all received grace in the place of grace” but also the fullest expression of “grace and truth.” (John 1:16-17).

Isms and Facts

Can facts correct your isms?  Or do isms correct your facts?  We all have particular beliefs.  Some of them we hold onto without even noticing them.  The philosopher Charles Taylor called these our “unthoughts.”  These are what we think without reflection, often without confirmation.  J. Warner Wallace, a famous cold case detective, says we ought to seek facts, not evidence.  Evidence so often helps us rationalize our unthoughts.  But most of us want evidence, not pesky facts that could challenge us.  Few people, in fact, step outside of what society generally allows them to believe.

So, for example, society tells us that religion is alright if we find our own personal meaning in it.  Most people only think of meaning as a property of their minds. Meaning is just in our heads, not out there in the real world.  But it’s not generally understood today that a religion could actually be true, even historically verifiable.  Since religion is something we simply make meaning of, it cannot have the ability to change our lifestyles much.  We don’t need to take up our crosses and follow a real Jesus very much.  Thus we can go to church on Sundays and live mostly for ourselves the rest of the week.  It goes without saying, though perhaps I need to say it, that this depiction is at odds with historical and orthodox Christianity.  I also think the idea of making your own meaning is incoherent, but that’s another story.

Another example of “unthought” is our preoccupation with race, class, and gender.  Many of our assumptions about this modern trinity go completely unchallenged.  We are told there is systemic racism and instead of researching what that means and looking for facts to support it or deny it, we simply accept it.  For white people it is good virtue-signalling to accept it because if you don’t, you are considered racist.  Sure there is still individual racism, which is very unfortunate, but systemic racism?  How do we define that? We have so much “white guilt” (as the much ridiculed black conservative author Shelby Steele points out) that we’re afraid to look into it. But when we boil it down, it is very hard to substantiate systemic racism as existent today. As far as class goes, we are told that when the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, as if economics were a zero sum game.  One reading of Thomas Sowell’s Economic Facts and Fallacy would blow this view to smithereens, but that takes away from watching our favorite TV shows. With gender, we are told that it is simply a social construct with no biological meaning.  If you examine these concepts, you will find out very quickly that all this is based on extremely muddled thinking rather than facts, research, stats and so on.  But again, most of us feel our way through life, keeping ourselves busy with constant amusement, unaware that “a-muse” means to not think.  We don’t think while we slowly walk onward towards our mortal end with nothing substantial to truly follow, leaving life half-lived and truth half-sought.

And we wonder why people are so sensitive today.  Well, if your worldview is completely subjective, not based on facts at all, and I challenge it, how are you going to react?  You’re going to react like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie “Jingle All the Way,” with total panic. “Put that cookie [fact] down! Now!”  Or perhaps you’ll be more like one of Jim Jones or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s cult followers.  You’ll just smile, knowing that you know the truth because…well…you just feel it.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Identity Politics

People’s sense of identity today is often thinner than a Victoria’s Secret model. Instead of the age old idea of using reason, common sense, and common ground to navigate conflicts of ideas, many think that the individual is just part of whatever group identity he aligns with. Postmodern theory even suggests that there is no common ground between group identities; all communication is lost in translation between groups. People are locked into their own psycho-socio-political-sexual-religious lenses and cannot escape. All we can do, supposedly, is coddle each other’s emotions and affirm each other’s chosen ways of life. Suffice it to say that this notion is self-contradictory and won’t help anyone bridge difficult cultural divides.

This notion that we are locked into a group identity and cannot get out is scarier than being trapped in a dream with Freddy Kruger. Think about it. If we are stuck in our own ways of thinking and cannot get out, then there is no point to ever attempting to change anyone’s mind. If it’s true, then you can’t change my mind about this topic, nor can I you. The group-think idea is also self-refuting. If it’s true that communication is locked within groups, then it is also false because this idea too is just another culturally bound idea. It’s like writing on the mirror “this sentence is a lie” with bright red lipstick. It may look sexy, but it just contradicts itself. If no groups can communicate, then we cannot even agree that no groups can communicate. We are left in the end with utter silence.

If no groups can communicate, then we cannot even agree that no groups can communicate.

Postmodern theory also leads to the quest for power. It’s just like the Lord Voldemort said to Harry Potter, “there is no good or evil, there is only power.” If the postmodern theory of truth is true (note the irony) then there can never be good things such as tolerance or peace. Because we are locked in our group identities, we are always confused by one another, and what we are left with is the struggle for power. Life begins to look more like a Monster Truck rally than an ordered or moral universe. In this theory, there is no pursuit of truth or virtue; we are left with students shouting down guest speakers that they don’t like. It’s more like a world resembling the movie Idiocracy. And let’s face it. We’re almost there.

It’s more like a world resembling the movie Idiocracy. And let’s face it. We’re almost there.

But another way this theory affects us is the facile and condescending quest to silence people from speaking about groups they are not involved in. So for example, some people start to squirm if we talk about policies in Islamic countries in a mildly negative light. The idea is that unless we are a part of a group, we can’t speak critically of them. Another strange example is when men claim ignorance about the issue of abortion because they are “not a woman,” as if it is only women would are allowed to have an opinion. But, you see, none of this follows if we are in fact not locked into our own group identities after all. We are influenced by cultural backgrounds, but that doesn’t mean we are determined by them. Sensitivity is needed, not silence.

Sensitivity is needed, not silence.

So while it is important to realize how our culture colors our view of the world, to make that into a barrier to truth yields an idiocracy in which none can speak publicly on anything of importance. If we are trapped into our group’s perspective, it leads to the quest for pure power, the dissolution of virtue, and the censoring of factual information about any group you do not belong to. So for all these reasons, we should chuck this theory out the window along with its brackish and filthy bilge-water. At the same time, let’s not forget that we are culturally and emotionally influenced creatures. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued that our reason and emotion are like a rider on an elephant. Reason is the rider. Emotion is the elephant. Emotion, influenced by our cultural backgrounds, is much stronger than reason. But that doesn’t mean we can;t train our riders and our elephants to function better together. With a well-trained rider and elephant, we won’t censure people for speaking of others just because they hold different group identities.

What is bullshit and why is there so much of it?

Harry Frankfurt’s influential essay “On Bullshit” is comically titled.  As the essay progresses, however, the comedy gives way to serious social commentary.  Frankfurt writes, “One of the most salient features of our culture is the proliferation of bullshit.  Everyone knows this.  Each of us contributes his share.  But we tend to take the situation for granted.”  Just as the fish does not stop swimming to notice water, so we, living in our time and place, scarcely stop to wonder, why all the bullshit?

What is bullshit?  According to Frankfurt, bullshit is when people represent themselves as being accurate when they have no concern for whether what they are saying is actually true or not.  The result could be true or not, but the communicator does not care much either way.  Bullshit might bring to mind a high school student’s college entrance essay sincerely describing beliefs that he does not in fact hold.  Or it may call to mind the typical argument between lovers where the man argues that he couldn’t get around to washing the dishes sitting in the sink even though he had three hours.

Another aspect of bullshit is when the speaker says something without much concern for the actual words she is using.  J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit starts off with an apt example.  Gandalf strolls up to the unsuspecting Bilbo Baggins, who quickly says, “Good morning!”  The wizard responds, saying, “What do you mean?  Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on.”  Bilbo responds, “all of them at once.”  Phrases like good morning do betray a lack of accuracy that we seldom examine.  Which meaning do we mean when we say it?  We tend to mean that we hope the person has a good morning, I suspect.  Later, when Bilbo tries to get rid of Gandalf, he says “good morning” in another sense, that of goodbye.  The ever wry and perceptive Gandalf points this out to the unadventurous Hobbit.  Bullshit often has this sense of inaccuracy of wording or thought.  So many of our expressions have the same quality.  How many of us have actually been in a butt kicking contest with a one legged man, for example?  I’d say none of us.  The point is that we ought to think about what we mean before we say it, just like Mom used to tell us.

Our inaccuracy often betrays our lack of concern for the truth.  This is the crux of the matter.  Many people in Western society today take the skeptical route, either rejecting  the existence of truth or of ever knowing truth.  If you cannot really know the truth, then why bother with accuracy of reasoning from evidence?  The result is an epidemic of unvirtuous intellects.  All the while, we often try our best to be sincere and authentic.  If we cannot know the truth, perhaps we can still be true to ourselves.  Yet the problem, as Frankfurt points out, is that if we cannot know truth, how can we know truth about ourselves?  Our own natures are just as illusive, if not more so, than any other object in the universe.  Being “authentic” without pursuing truth, is, in fact, bullshit.

What’s the anti-bullshit route?  It involves actually thinking about ideas, facts, and truth.  Yes, you may end up holding some false positions, but you can always improve as you learn more.  This is the anti-meme, anti-sentimentality, anti-mainstream media, anti-anti-intellectual route.  And, yes, this actually means we have to read good books.  These must be real books, not just short articles on the net.  From the looks of it, very few are taking this route today.  But just because that is the case does not mean that it has to be the case for any one of us.  The rebellion has begun…against bullshit.

How to be a pleasure-seeker

The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard wrote several works under the guise of an aesthete, a pleasure seeker.  He wanted to explore the psychology of this side of life to see where a philosophy of pure pleasure ultimately leads.   Here are some of his injunctions if someone wants to be a pure aesthete, a pure pleasure-seeker.

  1. Learn to remember and forget.  This will allow you to remember the good and beautiful things and forget anything painful or dismal.  Even painful experiences can be reimagined in clever ways to make them lead only to enjoyment.  For example, imagine someone you know has died.  During, the funeral, the speaker for the funeral gets up to speak but he is deadly dull.  His speech, meant to be a solemn reflection, is actually quite funny to you because his voice keeps cracking.  You can think back to that moment and consider the endless variations of his voice cracking.  With this method, you can try to breeze through the difficulties of life still only finding amusement.
  2. Avoid friendships as much as possible.  Friendships sneak up on one unawares.  Then, once we are in a friendship, we have less freedom and control over our lives, less freedom for enjoyment.
  3. Avoid marriage for the same reason as point 2 above.
  4. Avoid any gainful employment as much as possible.  Big boy and girl jobs are usually lame, boring, and constricting.
  5. Understand that boredom is the ultimate sin.  Yet it propels us into actions that will ultimately be more enjoyable if we learn how to use boredom properly.  Kierkegaard gives an example of a man who often likes to talk philosophy but is tremendously boring.  You notice that when he talks, he perspires profusely.  Sweat drips down his forehead in little rivulets until it gathers under one intense drop on the end of his nose before plummeting to the floor.  This process can become so enjoyable to watch that you even ask the man to discuss philosophy in the future.
  6. Learn to control your own moods.  A perfect example of this is in number five.

If you really live this way, you will discover what the life of the pleasure seeker has to offer.  When we distill the life of pleasure down to its basic parts, it is hard not to see this it for what it really is: utterly meaningless.  Kierkegaard’s method of exploration reveals the man behind the curtain of the pleasure palace for whom he really is.  This life leads to inhumanity, not to mention an ironic boredom.  There’s narcissism in it, a lack of concern for neighbor-love.  The way of the aesthete puts the master-idea of pleasure as the supreme talisman of life;  like every idol, the idol of pleasure ultimately demands sacrifice of other important things, such as friends, family, responsibility and so on.

Where am I going with all this   We often lack the nerve to think unabashedly about the emptiness of the life of diversion, of pleasure alone; we quickly try to convince ourselves that pleasure alone is enough.  If we want to see whether pleasure really works, we should take a keen look at it without use of our rose-colored spectacles.   But alas, most of us are too afraid of the answers we might find.  Even now we might be furiously searching for the remote control to numb the painful loneliness of existence with more instant pleasure.  But we should be a bit more like Kierkegaard, that psychological detective, and search the matter out to its very core.  If there is rot in our foundation, we better know about it before we purchase the whole house.

Am I suggesting that pleasure is somehow bad?  Far from it.  Our experience of joy here points to the existence of a transcendent joy, a beauty and a pleasure that is above all earthly experiences, one that brings meaning to earthly joys and gives us a reason to seek the joy of others.  That is what Jesus Christ offers.  “I have spoken these things to you that my joy shall be in you and your joy shall be full,” he says.  Was Jesus lying or deluded?  Or is he the answer to the deepest question, the fulfillment of the greatest story every told?  Most of us, even religious people, are too busy seeking short-term joys to ever really discover the answer to those questions.   We are trying dig our own wells of joy right next to a thunderous waterfall.  What C.S. Lewis once noticed is still true, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”