Tag Archives: Apologetics

Distinguo

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Something has been bothering me as of late.  It is rampant, and particularly egregious on college campuses.  This issue is the intensely fallacious tendency to compare libido to hunger.

To begin, those who even consider the idea are working under a false set of premises.  Not only is their world-view painfully skewed towards Idiocy, but They Fail Biology Forever.  You do not become emotionally attached to the food you eat at dinner.  Sure, you’ll favour some over others.  And if something is particularly tasty, it may release endorphins.  But oxytocin is completely out of the picture when eating dinner–however, it is the reason women “go crazy” and become possessively attached to men after sex.  It’s the same hormone shows up right after childbirth, allowing mothers to connect with their children.  Chemical bonding is strong.

Not to mention that one’s sex drive is, unlike hunger, not necessary for the survival of the person experiencing it.  People die of hunger all the time.  I have yet to hear of someone (outside of truly bad fanfiction or The Onion) who died of sex deprivation.  I’ve heard of it being used as a method of persuasion (Lysistrata, anyone?) but never actually heard of anyone dying from it as a direct cause.  (If it has ever really happened, post it in the comments please.  I’m curious.)

The problem here is that, while libido and hunger are both innate human cravings, the act of sex carries with it a LOT more implications than the act of eating food.  You can taste around, try foods, etc–and your body isn’t thinking that you are bonding yourself to this food for life.  That’s what it thinks when you sleep with someone, however: that’s why all the hormones and chemicals go crazy.  Your body is hard-wired to be monogamous for life.  That’s what it really wants.  And isn’t modern society all about treating our bodies well and giving them what they want?  In all serious matters, you think of both the short and long-term consequences of your actions.  If you want to get in shape, you develop a regular exercise routine (that’s the short-term) and then gradually get in better and better shape (that’s the long-term).  If you want to become a professor of philosophy at a university level, you must first go through undergrad, a Master’s program, and a PhD program.  The short-term is picking your schools and the long-term is the end goal, something you desire.  For some reason, though, college students are willfully ignoring the long-term consequences of their actions (and these actions come in many flavours) and instead choosing to live solely in the moment.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for seizing the day (carpe diem, anyone?), but somehow you need to acknowledge the fact that you will wake up in the morning and face the consequences, be they good or bad.

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Divertissement and Distraction

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(This is a simul-post with Ignitum Today)

Weariness.--Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair.

Diversion.--When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea or to besiege a town. A commission in the army would not be bought so dearly, but that it is found insufferable not to budge from the town; and men only seek conversation and entering games, because they cannot remain with pleasure at home.

Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and Catholic apologist

These piercing words of Pascal, perhaps the first modern Catholic apologist writing to an emerging modern world, have grown sharper as the world has grown more modern.  I mean this in that peculiar sense, distinct from chronology, in which we can call the 17th century modern although it already lies in so many ways beyond our historical horizons.  We could describe this modernity in many ways by looking at its art, its literature, its philosophy, its theology; but for the purpose of Pascal’s thoughts here it suffices to say that in the conditions of modernity the opportunities for distraction proliferate.  This should not be very controversial and at first glance perhaps does not look very worrisome either; however, as these two quotes from the Pensées indicate, Pascal discerns in this condition a peculiarly vivid example of the maladies afflicting humankind after its Fall.  What’s more, this symptom has grown only more severe in proportion to our knack for invention: now, as then, we might still work, play, go to the theater, gamble, hunt, go traveling, or pursue honors, esteem, and affection; but we also watch television, play video games, fool around on the internet, fiddle with our cell phones or iPods or iPads or Droids– and read and write blog posts.

Of course these pursuits have their rightful roles to play in human flourishing.  Yet even then, wherever the proper proportions for such activities may lie, we often go far out of our way to keep ourselves entertained– to kill the time, or stay busy, or shorten the wait.  Can we not withstand even a moment without something to do?  The lengths we will often go to fill the stillness sometimes take on the complexion of a quiet but desperate escapism.  Yes, escapism– not of the day-dreamer who yearns to ride off into the sunrise of some more fantastical life, but of the addict who will fix his gaze on anything to keep from having to look into his own face.  Indeed, the language of addiction would not be far from Pascal’s pen in this case; he would likely say that we are dependent upon our myriad diversions as upon sedatives.  Deprive ourselves of them for but a short while, and we become restless, perhaps anxious.  Why should this be?  Our 17th-century friend would locate the answer in our reluctance to face some of the more dreadful elements of our present condition: the brevity of our lives, the frailty of all our loves.  Pascal offers for our examination the many woes which we would sooner cover over than confront.  We might easily accuse Pascal of morbidity, but if that is our immediate response, doesn’t it attest to his point?  Why should we pass over the topic because it’s “too morbid,” “dreary,” “depressing,” when by confronting it we might hope to improve our lot beyond a mere self-induced sleep of denial?

Rather, let us get up and stir each other to wakefulness.  Once we do, we will begin to learn to recognize the brokenness of our condition, not as a meaningless blight to be covered up with endless hollow dissipation, but as a sign of our profound need for healing and an encouragement to press on along the way of redemption in Christ.  For on that journey alone shall we find the everlasting peace which comes, not from diversions of our own invention, but from the love of Our Lord.

Quote of the Day – “Life is for action”

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Life is not long enough for a religion of inferences; we shall never have done beginning, if we determine to begin with proof.  We shall ever be laying our foundations; we shall turn theology into evidences, and divines into textuaries.  We shall never get at our first principles.  Resolve to believe nothing, and you must prove your proofs and analyze your elements, sinking further and further, and finding “in the lowest depth a lower deep,” till you come to the broad bosom of scepticism.  I would rather be bound to defend the reasonableness of assuming that Christianity is true, than to demonstrate a moral governance from the physical world.  Life is for action.  If we insist on proofs for everything, we shall never come to action: to act you must assume, and that assumption is faith.  – Blessed John Henry Newman, “The Tamworth Reading Room”