Pascal writes, “…I have often felt that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his own room…
“The only good thing for man, therefore, is to be diverted so that he will stop thinking about his circumstance. Business will keep his mind off it. Perhaps there will be some novel and enjoyable pursuit which keeps him busy, such as gambling, hunting, or some show. In short, it will be what is called distraction.
“In busyness we have a narcotic to keep us from brooding and to take our mind off these things. That is why we prefer the hunt to the kill. [Emphasis added.]
“That is why men have tried to think of ways to make themselves happy. Those who philosophize about it maintain that people are unreasonable to spend all day chasing a hare they would never buy. But such have little understanding of our nature. For it’s not the hare that saves us from thinking about death…Hunting does this.” [Pages 96, 97; Mind on Fire, Edited by Dr. James M. Houston, Bethany House, 1997.]
Perpetual distraction so that we don’t think about death – this is the calling of consumerism. Diversion used to be the prerogative of the aristocracy, they could command and pay for entertainment – now it is accessible to virtually all in the West and to many in other parts of the globe. The entrance fee to this narcotic den is the price of a television, a radio, a smart phone. The hares we chase today are luxury cars and McMansions and exotic cruises and chic images and upscale cuisine and positions of power and influence…what can you add to the list?
We cannot remain quiet, we loathe stillness, we pity those who remain aloof from the materialistic fray, we look down upon those who have never been intoxicated by the elixir of power and position. King Solomon, who led a life of diversion, contemplated the futility of it all in Ecclesiastes and realized that…guess what…we are all going to die; rich and poor, king and slave, pretty and ugly, smart and dumb – we are all going to die and we are fools not to realize it.
Death is a good thing to think about, it reminds us of our mortality, and it should give us pause to consider the future. Those who deaden their senses today by diversion die early; those who ignore death are already in the grave; those who refuse to pay attention to their consciences and their a priori knowledge of transcendent truth do not cultivate their intellects – they dumb them down; they do not practice freedom of conscience or freedom of thought or freedom of speech – they become their own little police state lest the recesses of their heart and mind and soul attempt a prison break and shout, “I know there is more, I know there is more, I know that I and those I love are more than accidents of time plus matter plus chance!”
We are a nation of fools; who but fools would pay, and even go into debt, to have their eyes blinded and their hearts dulled by the narcotic of perpetual diversion? We are like children who refuse to get off the theme park ride – only death will stop the ride and we live as if it will never come.
Perhaps if we saw these things as they really are we would cease being enamored of them? Perhaps we would be confident in walking away from them? Maybe we would not be defensive and frankly state that they hold no interest for us? Could it be that our souls could be weaned from this dance of diversion if we realized that the music we dance to is composed to destroy our souls?
God’s beauty is all around us, it is a beauty understood and heard and seen in stillness, in contemplation, in reflection. God’s beauty invites us to thoughtfulness; we consider Him, we consider ourselves, we consider one another, we consider His creation. He speaks to us of His love and His desire for us to know Him – He speaks…He does not entertain, He does not dole out candy, or positions of power and fame – He speaks…will we listen? Will we be quiet and listen to the voice of God in Scripture, in creation, in our hearts?
The theme park will close one day – where will we go then? What will we do when the narcotic of diversion runs out?