Man and his search for meaning in this life is never ending. This is one such foray.
| How many have despondently walked through their lives asking themselves if this life was all there was. Reckoning the dreadful past of this world as well as its dire present, should it seem strange that many would ask the question. For is it not so very often that many move through lives vague and undefined. They seem, as it were, to walk through a recurring haze of regret and unrealized expectations. And, those expectations that are somewhat realized, seem to quickly fall short of the joys they have promised. And so, now these mourners are drifting down the river of living, clinging to the buoyant flotsam of empty promises. And there, entangled among the clashing wreckage, there is the doleful sound of moaning and weeping. Frightful shrieks cry out for aid and mercy in the swirling despair. Surely the circles of hell never witnessed such plaintive wails of sorrow and unrealized hope.
But surely this is a dire and desperate description of this life. Certainly nothing could be so fatal, so infinitely depressing as this dark gallery of dreadful portraits. Do the many of this world truly live out such a beggarly and threadbare existence? Do they hope through a continual cascade of tears? It must seem so, especially to those who suffer through the choking dust of daily adversity, whose pleadings for but a crust of bread or caring go shamefully unheard or ignored. Is there any supplication, any entreaty in behalf of those thusly suffering upon this earth, whose lives are a continual contest for emotional and physical survival? Who is it that sympathizes with them, experiences their pain, and mourns over their travail? Who witnesses the exploding mountains as they bring to a silent repose the sleeping village that will never awake, or watches the great ship slip beneath a yawning ocean? Do we see the answer as one of joy and definitive rescue? Or, could it be that we have but cracked the door just enough to glimpse a more vast and terrible void that deadens our hearts with a frightening realization. And what may be that realization? We may shutter at the very contemplation of such a thought.
For many it is a most terrifying contemplation; it is that of being alone. To be totally and forever alone, it is a paralyzing thought. But do we dare consider the unthinkable, the possibility that we are alone? If indeed we do utter that which is unutterable, from where shall we imagine our help will come? Surely the yawning expanse of space offers no solace. Those distant reaches appear dreadful in their cool and unsympathetic indifference. Where is the comfort there? Where exist our isle of bliss? And if death is in any way considered for its promise of peace and rest, will it be found no less sullen, offering only a damp and acrid decay? And if I do indeed die, is that the end of me? Am I alone forever? But oh how we desire the warm hearth that puts to silence the moaning chill, comforting us with its amber colored memories. But could it be that those memories sought only momentary hope of escape and a brief respite from despair? Did we love the thought of what was not? And if we seek what other men have sought – that realization of the divine – will we incur scorn? But the greatest of books says that God may indeed be found if He is sought with fullness of heart. But we must be persuaded that He can be found. And if so, then our failure to find Him would be the most tragic of all endings. For then, the stark reality of the void could not be avoided. Our expectation would be the infinite loneliness of a thick and Godless darkness. Is this in point of fact why we cannot be without the existence of God? Is the void left by His absence more horrible than we can bear to conceive? Is the contemplation of such utter loneliness beyond devastating? Is it the icy chill that drains the blood from a haunted face? Is it the terrifying consideration that refuses considering? Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” Nietzsche says that chaos is a birthing process. Even so, we most certainly remember that before the birth there is the pregnancy. In our case, it is not the birth that so frightens us, but the impregnation by that chaos. It is that very chaos of soul that most wish to avoid at any cost. And so, like couples who resist bringing children into addling society, we resist the invitation of turmoil into our complacency. We resist the heretical void and the anathema of questioning.
But is not all of this an apt description of life’s searching? For within the catacombs of a man’s soul there exist those niches of hopes and dreams, both deceased and unborn. Along those melancholy passages we may chronicle a life lived. And whether it was lived for good or ill, the evidence will reveal. And if the scale of balance weighs against us, from where will our redemption arise? It can only be found in the reality of the divine. Such is the only warm cleft for a freezing soul. And so, God must at all cost be found and believed for the sake of our lives, and the postponement of madness. And as we delve more deeply into the void we find that we are joined by others there, all searching, but in disguise. For are many not known as the faithful believers for whom it was the most sordid scandal to search for that which was presumed found? But it was that we, in our most pleasant disguise, did search deeply because we felt deeply. Doctor M. Scott Peck writes: “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” And is there anyone who could blame us for searching? And if we did not search, would we not be called to account?
And so we search. And even though it is dark, and most will never understand, we willingly risk those disgusted looks and puzzled stares. The great Baptist minister John Bunyan wrote: “Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions than ruined by too confident a security.” Now it is most important to note that this searcher of the void has never been alone in his quest. History has sent forth other intrepid explorers. Our Puritan forefathers cannot be surpassed in this. They, like few others before them, searched the outer limits of the void, and were much misunderstood for having done so. Our Puritan forefathers were a people like no other. Theirs was, according to writer David Stannard, a sense of national mission infused with a single minded confidence. It is true that the Puritans had a quantum confidence in God’s ability to bring their mission to a successful conclusion. And yet they struggled within that same frame of confidence. But that struggle was not in their confidence toward God, but rather, toward themselves. Again, as described by Stannard, “In spite of their single-minded confidence, “their sense of individual salvation was beset with agonizing insecurity. Ever sense the fall of Adam man had been scared with a natural depravity so deep and repulsive that no one who subsequently walked the earth was worthy of salvation. But God in His infinite mercy and love had extended a heavenly lifeline, as it were, to a select and predetermined few. Although it was impossible for a man ever to know with (perfect) confidence that he was among this holy elect – to presume such knowledge would be to presume a Godlike omniscience – all Puritans battled fiercely with their consciences as they searched to find among the numberless indications of depravity, some signs, at least, that they might be among the chosen few. The search for the seeds of grace took the Puritans on a journey of harrowing and tearful introspection…” To be sure, personal journals of the Puritans bear out this observation. Beyond any doubt, the Puritans were imminent among those who approached their human flaws and doubts concerning divine things with the most sincere honesty. They viewed those same divine things as profound mysteries and were unafraid to confess of the limits of man’s understanding. In this sense, they were most unlike those professors of religion in our day with their bombastic and over asseveration of assurance. They heralded warning, warning, warning, lest men did grow drowsy in a settled self-confidence. They spoke of unsettling things, of painful and mournful things from which many had stopped their ears.
And is such not the abiding and deadly truth of our day? How often do men fiddle while a conflagration of eternal dimensions burns within? And those things that should have been dissected to their dreadful marrow are reviled as is a putrefying sore. But if it be considered madness to search these dark regions of the soul, the void, if you will, then count this writer mad. For I would do as author Richard Wright envisioned of himself. He writes: “I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” And so I too send out those voyager words. And if I seek what other men have sought, that same sense of the divine, will it be revealed to me? And if a voice echoes back, even if faintly and I believe, then shall I be saved. The void shall at last be filled, and the chasm bridged. My dark night shall break to day, and the adventures anew begin.