In reading through this book of the Pensees by Blaise Pascal, I came upon a chapter on a subject that I’ve noticed people discussing regularly today. More than once has someone mentioned that they need “distractions” in their life. It sounds so foreign to me to required happiness in diversion of the mind, but Pascal explains, “We once possessed a high degree of greatness (in the Garden of Eden), but have unhappily fallen from it. It is not through the proud action of our reason, but through its humble submission that can really know ourselves. There are two fundamental truths of faith. One is that man in the state of original creation, or in the state of grace, is exalted above the whole of nature, made like unto God, and sharing in his divinity. The other is that in his state of fallenness and sin, man has forfeited this first state. In spite of all these miseries man wants to be happy, and only be happy, and cannot help wanting to be happy. But how can he go about this? It would be best if he could make himself immoral, but since he cannot do this, he decides to stop thinking about it. Being unable to cure death, misery, and ignorance, men have decided that in order to be happy, they must repress thinking about such things. If man were truly happy it would be in unconscious self-forgetfulness that his greatest happiness would lie, like the saints and God. Yes, but is a man not happy who can find delight in amusements to divert him? No, because that come from somewhere else, and from outsiders. This means that man is dependant. In short, it will be what is called distraction. In busyness we have a narcotic to keep us from brooding and to take our mind off our circumstances. That is why the pleasures of solitude are considered incomprehensible.
It is wrong to blame them, for they are not wrong to want excitement, if they only want it for the sake of distraction. The problem is that they want it on the understanding that once they have had the material things that they are looking for, they would not fail to be truly happy. They are pursuing so eagerly that which can never satisfy them. It does not occur to them that it is only the pursuit and not the kill they are really after. The only true happiness lies in rest and not in excitement. No matter how miserable he is, if he can be persuaded to take up some diversion, he will be happy so long as it lasts. He must create some objective for his passions and then arouse his desires for this object he has constructed. He must get excited; he must delude himself into thinking he would be happy to win what he would not want as a gift.
Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries. For above all, it is that which keeps us from thinking about ourselves and so leads us imperceptibly to destruction. But for that we should be bored, and boredom would drive us to seek some more reliable means of escape, but distraction passes our time and brings us imperceptibly to our death. The Philosophers say:”Go back into yourself; for it is there that you will find peace.” This is just not true. The others say: “Go out of yourselves; look for happiness in some distraction.” And that also is not true. Happiness is neither outside nor inside us. It is in God, both outside and inside us.”
Something to consider in our understanding of why people say and act as they do today. May we show them the light of Christ and the Lord that is the source of true joy and happiness. May the Lord soften hearts and open ears to hear the gospel of salvation in Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1b-2 “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In Christ, Brian