Quest for Meaning

Lately I have felt haunted by the words of something I read, that unfortunately I have lost. Thomas Merton expressed a similar sentiment:

Saint Gregory of Nyssa, pursuing his meditations on the psychology of attachment and illusion, vision abd detachment, which constitute his commentary on Ecclesiastes, observes how much time weaves about us this web of illusion. It is not enough to say that the man who is attached to this world has bound himself to it, by a wrong choice. No: he spins a whole net of falsities around his spirit by the repeated consecration of his whole self to values that do not exist. He exhausts himself in the pursuit of mirages that ever fade and are renewed as fast as they have faded, drawing him further and further into the wilderness where he must die of thirst …

And so, that “utter meaninglessness” which so exercised the ancient preacher of Ecclesiastes and his commentator is a life not merely of deluded thoughts and aspirations, but above all a life of ceaseless and sterile activity. What is more, in such a life the measure of illusion is the very intensity of the activity itself. The less you have, the more you do. The final delusion is movement, change, and variety for their own sakes alone.

What a stark contrast to the philosophy promoted in “Who moved my Cheese“, a book much-loved in the corporate world. An insightful article at Mere Comments, “Have the Earthlings Gone Mad?“, notes numerous ways in which industrial humans have lost their way:

I think an intelligent being from another planet, studying our habits, our young, our work, our lives might conclude that someone must be doing something to these people, cleverly, one incremental, sinister step at a time, to make them behave these very unnatural ways.

Describing the hope of Christians, Fyodor Dostoyevsky penned a wondrous, childlike perspective:

It’s the great mystery of human life that old grief passes gradually into quiet, tender joy. The mild serenity of age takes the place of the the riotous blood of youth. I bless the rising sun each day, and as before, my heart sings to meet it, but now I love even more its setting, its long slanting rays and the soft, tender, gentle memories that come with them, the dear images from the whole of my long, happy life — and over all the divine truth, softening, reconciling, forgiving! My life is ending, I know that well, but every day that is left me I feel how my earthly life is in touch with a new, infinite, unknown, but approaching life, the nearness of which sets my soul quivering with rapture, my mind glowing and my heart weeping with joy.

Job 42:5-6 seems apposite:

5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

This is the promise of the Kingdom, and the new covenant (1 Corinthians 13):

11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The secret treasure of the Christian faith is that the world bears the fingerprints of a loving Creator. In seeking ultimate answers, we have the great comfort of knowing that the supreme Being transcending the universe, is the embodiment of Love. And so it is natural to worship and adore our kind and tender Shepherd.


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