Monday, 25 February 2019

Sleepwalking to Emptiness

When I look around me it seems that most people in the Western world are completely oblivious to any kind of deeper reality. They don't appear to think very seriously about who or what they are but carry on with their lives as though appearance were reality, absorbed in their usually unimportant work and petty distractions as though these actually meant something.

What an arrogant attitude! How dare I be so dismissive of hard-working people, struggling to make ends meet and fit in a few moments of relaxation and leisure whenever they can.

Perhaps, and I certainly am not dismissing anyone since everything in our contemporary society conspires to obscure truth. Nevertheless, how anyone can live in this world without making huge mental efforts to try to work out what it is and what it means and what they should be doing to live life in a way that corresponds to reality is an enigma. The problem of existence is not solved by evading it, and if it is lack of interest that prompts the refusal to look at what this world and our life mean, that is even worse. So many people really seem to think that it is an intellectual luxury to try to penetrate the mystery of life or else they all too readily assume that there is no mystery and that life is what it appears to be, a meaningless accident which must just be made the most of. They seem to have little or no intellectual or spiritual curiosity, especially not in a way that would actually be applicable to their lives and open up something more than the fulfilment of ephemeral desires whether to do with mind or body. And, as far as I can see, this is as true of the intelligentsia as it is of ordinary people.

Most people in the modern West are relatively comfortable, certainly by historical standards. But this might just be blinding us to reality. It's a shield that protects us from the chilly blasts of existence and prevents us from seeking greater meaning. We are lulled into sleep by what technology has come up with to make the physical aspect of life easier and more pleasant.  We hardly ever step out of the everyday world, or the image that has been created of the everyday world, and ask ourselves, just what is this and what should I be doing to make real sense of it?

Whether through laziness or lack of imagination or shallowness or some other form of willful negligence, so many people today are allowing themselves to be shepherded along to a state of great spiritual damage. This world only meets its proper purpose when seen as a place in which human beings make the conscious decision to invite God into their hearts. If they ignore that purpose, it will be to their long-term loss. What could possibly cause a creature made in God's image either to deny what it is or, in some respects even worse, just pay no attention to what it is? It can only be because it is sunk into self-absorption to the extent that it mistakes the outermost components of its being for its true self, not bothering to look more deeply into itself.

I'm sure that no one reading this falls into the category I have just described. If they did, why would they be wasting their time here? But how many people have genuine spiritual concerns, in that these are the most important thing in their lives? And if you are a believer but spiritual concerns are not the most important thing in your life, what kind of believer are you? Your belief must be lukewarm at best.

The time is coming when our heart will be judged. Have we used our life in this mortal world to try to gain a greater understanding of God and put ourselves right with him? Or have we wasted our life by neglecting spiritual things? It might seem strange to say that a life without spirituality is a wasted life, but so it is. You may be the most successful person with wealth, fame and all the rest of it. You may be an acclaimed artist or scientist of renown but if you have not attended to spiritual matters, you have wasted your life and are sleepwalking to emptiness.

Note: This is one of my more polemical pieces which probably sounds a little intemperate in tone but that's because it's becoming increasingly apparent that the hour is getting late, or so it seems to me.


Epimetheus said...

I'm not sure anyone truly understands what's going on at a mass scale. My father and I have found that, in North America, there is a growing hunger for something nourishing and real. It's mostly unconscious at the moment, but one sees signs of it here and there.

For example, the election of Donald Trump indicates that huge amounts of people are doubting the Official Truth, but there's no positive replacement Truth yet. The success of Jordan Peterson shows that the young are in open spiritual starvation.

Our drug and suicide epidemic indicate that people are taking their existential suffering quite seriously - they're killing themselves because of it, in droves. I don't know what to do about it. Everyday I think I've got crippling problems, I'm the odd one out in society, but then I get the terrifying inkling that I might be relatively healthy. What should we do? How do you help these people?

William Wildblood said...

You are quite right that there is this great hunger for something more, and that is reflected in Donald Trump's election and Jordan Peterson's success. I'm not sure how widespread it is or how far it would be willing to go or how much it would be willing to sacrifice but it is there. I think it's mostly caused by the realisation that the demands of the left have gone beyond the point of sanity yet it seems that there is still a majority of people in the Western world who do go along with the madness. But perhaps the minority who don't is growing and that is cause for hope.

How do we help them? I wish I knew but it seems the best thing we can do is to show them that there actually is something else. Because anyone born since the 1960s has been subjected to the leftist view of the world as the one that is both good and true. They don't know any other point of view or, if they do, it's painted as out of date and based on hatred. We have to proclaim as loudly as we can that there is another way and it is the true way.

We also have to rescue Christianity from the lop-sided view that love your neighbour means deny the reality of sin. Love without truth is mere sentimentality and just weakens both the one loving and the one loved.

Francis Berger said...

An excellent post.

I spent the better part of my twenties and early thirties in the state you described above. It took a great deal of effort, focus, and sacrifice (or what I believed to be sacrifice at the time) to change my course. I don't regret waking up from sleepwalking for a minute, but many people actively prefer sleepwalking.

It provides comfort, pleasure, acceptance, and prestige in the short term, and the short term is all that matters to most. In the long term all of the benefits of sleepwalking turn out to be illusions. But not now, and that's all that matters to most people.

As you mention, however, the one thing sleepwalking existence does not provide is real meaning. I believe the even the most dedicated sleepwalkers realize this; they just refuse to do anything about it because they see no reward in changing even though they know they must.

Regardless, I am somewhat optimistic. If I succeeded in waking up, others can as well. Whether time will run out on some people first is another matter entirely.

William Wildblood said...

Thanks Francis. Let's hope you're right and that more and more people do start to rub their eyes, remove the dust and wake up. I suspect, though, it's going to take some real suffering, as it often does, before that happens. Whenever anyone say something like that they are accused of wanting it to happen but what they really want to happen is for human beings to start to live as human beings should, walking in the light of God.

Dante Alighieri said...

I cannot say clearly how I had entered
the wood; I was so full of sleep just at
the point where I abandoned the true path.

Tobias said...

I try to talk about the spiritual realities to friends, but meet resistance all the way. They say that the point of life is to live it and not think about life after death because there might not be any, and if there is, then it will happen anyway. There is no knowledge of what is required to assure life after death, and when I try to explain, they say that they are good people, and if there is a God, and he cannot see that, then he is not worth bothering with. More than that, he is being unfair, and expecting too much of humanity in expecting them to acknowledge Christ.

I think that this is the view held by most people, not just friends of mine.

What can I do?

William Wildblood said...

Nothing more than you have done. All anyone can do is point the way and if that is ignored it is the responsibility of the one doing the ignoring. But you may be sowing seeds that will sprout later when the person is more open to deeper reflection.

One more thing I would say is that no one says he is a good person if he is aware of spiritual things. Are you a good person? Seriously, if anyone asked me that I would have to say no, I am not because I am aware of all the many ways in which I fall short. You might remind much people of what Christ said when he was hailed as good " Why call me good? There is none good save one, that is God alone"