Paper Part 3
Lewis's problem (and more importantly, God's problem) with our desires is that we do not seek them near as often or with near as much passion as we should. This is a concept supported by great minds of many ages. Freud believed that if we all looked out for our own good, we all would be much happier. Blaise Pascal says that "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves." It cannot be denied that every action of every day is performed with the hope of it somehow bringing us an increase in our happiness. The debate then is not whether man desires to be happy but more of the nature of God. Did he create man with desires to be suppressed so that we can more honestly praise God or did he create man with desires for happiness so strong and so intense that nothing on this earth can fulfill it?
"Although Lewis believes that all forms of pleasure, fun, happiness, and joy come from God, who gives these freely for all to enjoy, he admits that these earthly pleasures never completely satisfy us. 'We have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy, but they never quite satisfy our yearnings.’ God withholds from us ‘the settled happiness and security which we all desire.' Otherwise, Lewis says, we would think this world our home rather than a place through which we are passing.” These desirable things on earth are shadows and reflections of the greatest happiness and glory of all-God the Father. "There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent, the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself." The world has an inconsolable longing. It tries to satisfy the longing with scenic vacations, accomplishments of creativity, stunning cinematic productions, sexual exploits, sports extravaganzas, hallucinogenic drugs, ascetic rigors, managerial excellence, et cetera. But the longing remains. What does this mean? “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”
We will delight most in what we value most. Whether or not we pleasure in something is simply a barometer of how important that particular thing is. If you delight in spending time with your friends but not in studying for calculus, it is probably because your friends are more valuable to you. The man who is in love with a woman does not have to force himself to tell her how beautiful she is. It is a natural result from the overwhelming happiness in his heart. A pivotal quote from Lewis on this subject deals with this. "But the most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or any thing-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise what ever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists, in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. Happiness does not compete with God, idols do...I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed."
You can tell God that the ocean is lovely and thank him for creating it. But would not it bring him more pleasure to see you ACTIVELY swimming in it, surfing in it, picnicking alongside it-that is SEEING his child enjoying what he has created for him. The same can be said of sex. That man who is in love can thank God for his lover and for her body and for her beauty. Wouldn't it make more sense for him to praise God by actively enjoying her beauty and her body and her presence? Freud is not wrong in that the ultimate human purpose is in pursuing pleasure. Sex is a beautiful thing created by a loving God who delights in his child's happiness, but even more so in his own glory. Lewis simply redefined what the pleasure is-the soul's delight in God. "The tragedy of the world is that the echo is mistaken for the Original Shout. When our back is to the breathtaking beauty of God, we cast a shadow on the earth and fall in love with it. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things-the beauty, the memory of our own past-are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”