19 December 2010

What Drives Us

I often think pleasure is ridiculously over-rated as a source of human motivation. Or at least of our modern human motivation. How many civilized human beings do you suppose there are today who do anything purely for pleasure - that is, minus the influence of some vanity project or other adulterating agenda? Certainly, in any case, it's not for those pure pleasures that are, in the words of Psalm 16, always to be found at the right hand of God. And perhaps even less for those rare pleasures to be gleaned from that music of words which, according to Proverbs 15: 26, are both pleasant and pure.

And yet the longer I live, the more I am amazed at the lengths to which human creatures will go - how much they'll exert and extend themselves, not just to others' hurt but to their own, and not just for the sacrifice of other people but of themselves - in the pursuit of something they call power. I wish I could see what they hope to gain by it. After all, our lust for earthly power and influence is such an infinitesimal - and worse of all, constricting - part of our makeup, compared to the vastness, the unsearchableness of those regions our Maker has planted deepest within us. Yet see how we think nothing of abasing the greater before the lesser; see how we revere this pompous little pinprick as if he were the whole show, or in any case the engine that drives the whole. Thank God we are, then - even the most driven among us - so much more than anything we do or make or own. Or even anything we leave behind. Thank God there's always something else going on inside us - a barely-there voice, I'll admit, that we may seldom if ever hear above all the raucous din of our doing. But just think how much better we'd do all sorts of things if for a change we tried to listen! Think how much more purposefully we'd do them, and thoughtfully; how much more heedful we'd be of our beholdenness to the Past, and of our duties to the Future. To say nothing of the enveloping, rumor-filled mystery that surrounds us everyplace we walk, almost as if we were skirting the borders of something lost and irretrievable, and yet vouchsafed for us - provided we walk respectfully.

Imagine, too, how boring we all would be, if our whole lives - or worse, our whole thoughts - consisted merely of the things we do or make or own. And think how oppressively dull we invariably become - how monotone, and monochrome, and even monstrous - when we live solely for that ultimately enfeebling thing we know as Power on Earth.

But perhaps you think a Lady Macbeth would have been an utterly enchanting person to know - and all the more so when in the throes of her latest intrigues, or at the summit of her latest triumphs! Maybe you imagine her as a thoroughly engaging and enlivening conversationalist - I mean, when her eyes are not darting every which way, or when she's not looking over her shoulder, or listening in on someone's conversation, or checking her iPhone and other twinkling things for the latest updates . . .

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