Blind Man Searching
by Paul Walker
Psychological research indicates that having a religious faith
is a major contribution to happiness. People of faith are generally
happier than people without. However, lest people with strong religious
convictions become a trifle smug, it doesn�t seem to matter what you
believe - as long as you believe something.
In the West depression is reaching epidemic proportions. There are
those (not just religious people) who have linked this fact to the decline
of religion. They conclude that it leads to great psychological
trauma. This is an uncomfortable thought for cultured despisers of
It has become clear to me that the overriding belief system in the
modern western world is a kind of hedonism. This works as follows: life
just is. It has no particular point or purpose. So I might as well
have as much fun as I can - as long as I don't hurt anyone else.
And how do I have fun? This seems to fall into three categories: (a)
sex; (b) drugs; and (c) rock and roll. Criticise any of these and you will
be accused of being a puritan or worse. But here goes anyway.
Sex has always been a pleasurable recreation. But today we seem to need
more of it with more people in more and more innovative ways than ever
before. In one sense I have no problem with that. I am a man after all.
Yet it turns out that society is harmed by some of the results - single
parent families, more sexually transmitted disease, vast amounts of
pornography available at the touch of a button, single older people with
no families, and fewer partnerships lasting a lifetime.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s promised to be liberating. Yet we
now fear that it in fact binds vulnerable people to a form of
exploitation. Society seems full of lonely, disease-ridden individuals. If
this sounds melodramatic look at sub-Saharan Africa. That there is value
in the almost universal tradition of associating sex with exclusive
commitment appears to be right after all.
Most of us are drug-addicts.
For a great number of my acquaintances, pleasure is associated with
vast amounts of alcohol. I enjoy it myself. Yet consumption of alcohol and
recreational drugs is increasing. At the same time we are using more
prescription drugs to deal with our sadness. There are few pleasures that
we do not associate in our minds with one drug or another - even caffeine.
Again I have no intrinsic problem with the use of drugs. But the effects
of overuse are all-too-obvious.
I used the term rock and roll above. But really I�m thinking of the
vast range of entertainment available to us.
We have no good reason to be bored. We can listen to whatever music we
want. We can watch any number of television channels. And the internet
caters for even the most esoteric of tastes.
These three things are the stock-in trade of the hedonist. They all
promise pleasure, entertainment, fun and parties. And they all promise to
satisfy quickly and easily, no effort involved.
And they have a certain allure. I can think of worse ways to spend an
evening than watching a film, followed by a chilled bottle of Chablis and
unbridled sex. In fact, I can think of few better.
But if I dedicate my life to pursuing such pleasures they may
themselves become empty. And in my experience that is just what happens.
Such an evening is only a moment of pleasure. But can such moments really
be the purpose of our lives?
Religious people may be deluded. They may be wrong. But at least they
believe that life has purpose. Ironically, religious people are as likely
as anyone to spend evenings like the one described. The difference is that
if they don�t enjoy the time it doesn�t really matter. It is a passing
moment in a far greater adventure.
Now, I suspect that what is true of religious people is equally true of
communists, fascists, those who dedicate their lives to music, art,
animals or searching for UFOs. People with over-arching purpose to their
lives may even sometimes be dangerous. But without a purpose their lives
seem empty and futile.
I suppose that is what keeps me going even at times when I fear that my
religious yearnings are no more than the search of a blind man in a dark
room looking for a black cat that isn�t there.
Whether God is real or metaphorical, I would rather dedicate my life to
God�s service than to give up on the possibility of a purpose to my life.