For the third Sunday of Advent

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

Our desires outstrip what the world has to offer us, and the trick is to both never lose sight of this fact and to never let go of that desire. The carpe diem religion, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, forgets the former and hence remains the religion of profound unhappiness. But the more sensible epicurean or Buddhist, in giving up on joy, quietly retreats from the human spectacle. Oddly enough, the latter is perhaps the more dangerous kind, the sort that more easily quenches the Spirit, as the thrill seeker is at least aware on some level that there is a gnawing hole to be filled, and that it is our birthright that it be filled to the point of overflow. He just has the means confused. The agnostic philosopher/critic Walter Kaufmann said something somewhere to the effect that the fact there could be no Buddhist Shakespeare or Sophocles is an indication that perhaps the the serenity those sorts of traditions offer comes at too high a price. It is a failure of nerve, albeit a graceful one.

Joy goes hand in hand with a refusal to be easily satisfied, to “not quench the Spirit” and to “test everything”, because we ought not to take so low a view of ourselves so as to be content with settling for second best.

About Josh W

Scribbler and doodler
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