Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Exaggerations Regarding Human Fulfillment

...and the ever deepening void

It has long been observed that our times have been characterized by an emphasis on personal "fulfillment" at the expense of human obligations. We have become, for example, as much 'consumers' relative to marriage and the raising and education of children as in our "preferences" for games and consumer goods. The sad consequence of this is that as with consumer goods we end up trashing our "partners" (so provisional a term!) and children, just as we do yesterday's style cell-phone, or what have you, when we tire of them.

The Christian message however reminds us that this is as destructive personally as it is unrealistic.

Desire

Desire, when it is exalted above all else, is nothing if not fickle and restless; we embrace passion as we do any infatuation; and then when it begins to fade and finally fizzle out we go---if we have not grown into Love---looking for something else to fill the ever deepening void on route to complete narcissism.

Desire as an end in itself is also opposed to the very meaning of love which always "seeks the good of the other," St. Thomas, in keeping with the Gospel, reminds us.

Every true act of love---which today is so often confused with desire, perpetual infatuation, and lust---involves in some degree what the Scripture calls a "dying to self" that a new reality may live. It is true even in every simple act of kindness wherein we "die" to our old selfishness. Jesus said, "unless the grain of wheat fall unto the ground and die it abides alone; but if it dies it brings forth much fruit" (Jn 12:24).

When a parent sees a child born into this life, he or she knows, or should, that this very child in the ordinary course of things will see the parent out of this life in tender gratefulness. It is the price of love when we give birth to any good. True love, we are taught, willingly moves over, to let in another, and make room for a new miracle.

Our time is characterized not only by the consumer "user" mentality implied in the modern use of the term "partner," but also by endless frustration, deepest existential and spiritual disappointment, and the feeling that we have lost in the "game" of life. And so the "identity crisis" we seem to experience sometimes lasts a lifetime.

The truth is, if we feel so lost it is only because we have missed the meaning and goal of Love which exists to nurture the new seedling, not trash it.

The simplicity of the Gospels is where we will find our wisdom, and thus our very selves again. It doesn't get deeper.

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways"---St. Paul, 1 Cor. 13:11