Monday, March 7, 2011

The Search For Meaning; The Impetus For Giving

I am a religious person.

I think that is rather obvious to people who read this blog. The fact is, I am more than a religious person: I am a Christian. This distinction is something I shall take up another time. For now I want to concentrate on the "given" aspect of being religious; the thing that makes me religious simply because I am a human being.

Everyone has a religious dimension to their being, and it is the most profound dimension of their being. It is that level of life where, in a primal sense, questions emerge--inescapable questions that have to do with the value and purpose of life. I don't mean speculative questions about the meaning of life in a general sense (such as we consider in philosophy); I mean those deeply personal questions about the meaning of my life as a person, an "I," in myself, my relationships to others, to reality, and the the source and goal of my being.

Although I can ignore the articulation or conscious awareness of these questions, there is no escaping them in the actual living out of my life. When I wake up in the morning, what gets me out of bed is the fact that I want things. I always want something, because I always have a sense of my need for more, my incompleteness, my sense of a "something greater" that stands before me. The recognized fact that there is something "else" that I want (and I go from activity to activity because the awareness of needing more is always before me) is a constant reminder of a "greater-than-me" with which I am engaged precisely in the measure that I am living with real human interest and vitality. In that continual desire to "become more," to relate to what is greater than me and beyond me, we find some of the elemental, intuitive components of worship.

In fact, everyone seeks. Everyone recognizes that there is something outside of themselves that gives their lives meaning, something that has value. Even persons who says "life has no meaning," betray themselves in the very saying, for they clearly have "already" in their minds a standard of meaning, which they must have drawn from somewhere, and to which they find that life doesn't measure up. And human beings don't just want to "consume" meaning to enlarge themselves. They want to participate in meaning; they recognize instinctively that the attainment of value in life entails giving. The awareness and the impetus to give are fundamental factors of human understanding that arise, once again, spontaneously from the interplay of the person with reality.

And so every human person seeks to attain that-which-is-ever-greater than him/herself, and seeks to give him/herself over to the ever-greater. Some misconstrue the nature of the object of their seeking, but--really--there is no one who does not seek. No one lives entirely locked within themselves.

When the human quest is genuine, it articulates itself conceptually in terms applicable to all reality--Truth, Goodness, Beauty--and even beyond all reality--the Infinite, the Transcendent, the Divine.

In any case, there is only a theoretical atheism. There is no real atheism. The real human being does not choose between God and atheism. The real human being chooses between God and idols.