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Friday, May 16, 2014

A Life Without Meaning

A rather sad story from the UK, that is really common in the modern world-
Of course, the connection here is with unemployment.  In the Western world, with its particular emphasis on materialism (call it 'capitalism,' 'corporatism,' 'fascism,' 'socialism,' 'distributionism,' 'mercantilism,' 'communism,'... you get the point), then what passes for identity is how one partakes of the material world.
We do that by 'making' money.  Our career is, therefore, the pinnacle of identity.
No longer is man defined by religion and spirituality, or family, or regional origin, or even citizenship. 
"What do you do?" is the most common question after asking one's name.  So, when you lose your job, or your career is taken away, then who you are comes into question.
You may get away with prepending 'retired' to one's old profession, but for many people, that just seems rather silly when you are 24 years old and have not held the same job for more than two years.  When you are young and have few accomplishments, identity is unstable when it is defined by a career.
So, we wrestle with why we exist, particularly when we do not have a fixed identity.  We wonder what we are and why we are at the same time.  So, why do we exist?
The sillier answers sound something like this:
"God created us to worship Him."
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
If you want to know why the Church says God created us, then just read this snippet from the introduction to the Philokalia written by St. Nikedemos the Hagiorite-
God, the Blessed Nature, the Transcendent Perfection, the Creative Principle of all good and beautiful things, Transcendently Good and Beautiful, having from eternity destined according to His Divine Idea to deify man, and having from the beginning within Himself set this purpose, created man at a time when He was well pleased.
Making the body out of matter and placing inside it a soul which He created, He set man as a sort of a cosmos, great by virtue of the soul's many and superior powers, in a small cosmos. He placed man as a contemplator of Visible Creation and as an initiate of Intelligible Creation, according to the Gregory (bishop of Nazianzus [c. 329-390]) who is great in Theology.  And what else but as really a statue and a divinely made image full of all the graces. And having given him the Law of the Commandments as a kind of test of his power of free choice and self-control. And as Sirach says, He left man in the power of his own deliberation (Wisdom of Sirach 15:14), to choose according to his own opinion in each situation. And as a prize, to receive the hypostatic gift of theosis, becoming God (ed.- In the sense of participating in God's "energies.") and shining eternally with the purest Light.  (St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, Introduction to the Philokalia, trans. C. Cavarnos, The Philokalia, vol. 1 [Belmont, 2008], p. 27.)

God made man because He wanted to.  Nothing more.
He places within us what it is that we sense: an interior cosmos that is greater than the world into which we are born.  The very Image of the Divine is, in fact, after which we are fashioned.  Then, we are thrust into a small world that is dirty and sticky, and somehow feels both inviting and inappropriate at the same time.  We love the world and despise it at the same time.

When we are not shown the way through this world, then it becomes a depressing journey of futility.  We are called to be 'initiated' into the deeper mysteries of the world, and ourselves.  It is not a secret path to initiation, but one of hardship and suffering that is both public and private.  The books are open, and the secrets are known.  The 'secret' is getting the secret rather than just knowing about it.  It is the experience of it.

When your life has no vastness, no mystery, but just a day-to-day struggle to put food in your mouth and clothes on your back, then it will always be something of a disappointment once the food is eaten and the clothes put on.  The only challenge is one of quality and quantity, but nothing exists beyond them.

Unless you move through and beyond.  Unless you stretch your thoughts into this vast interior cosmos to find the Eternal God that lies within.  The light is not your own, but a Divine Light that is not you, but has made you our of the purest of love.

That's the mystery.  And, that is the thing we long to live for.  It gives us not 'purpose,' but 'value.'

It makes life worth living.

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