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Love Life

Love and the Truth about Life

Time and again I come across claims that modern-day atheists, or past atheists like Bertrand Russell, “love life”; and, of course, they mean the here-and-now, the observable present, since they vigorously dispute the existence of anything else. And I find myself wondering what exactly they love, and what the nature of that “love” is.

It has been said that once you accept that this present life must inevitably come to an eventual end (both for individuals, and for the race, the planet, the earth), then before long the purpose, and valuing of … everything … begins to unravel.

The alternative – valuing the temporary for itself alone – is ultimately hedonism. By this, I don’t mean to conjure an image of the hedonist as known in former times – a permanently-inebriated ‘man of the world’, an aesthete who sates his need for pleasure in absinthe-palaces and brothels – but rather someone for whom the limit of his conception of the good is the purely-this-worldly – even if the good means happiness, ease, material security, and civilised values such as arts and culture; it may even mean (this-worldly) love.

Happiness, of course, presents its own problems. A particular concern at the moment (in the context of the secular/materialist world, of course) is the acquisition (and lack) of happiness, particularly the apparent lack of happiness in a world of material plenty and presumed “liberation” to do what you wish, free of former (moral) constraints. I have argued that happiness must always elude anyone who makes its acquisition their principal object, and only comes as a perhaps-surprising, bye-product of another search, perhaps a search for truth, or the well-being of others.

We rightly think that it is good and noble (indeed, for Christians, necessary) that we seek with all out might to end the awful situation whereby others on the planet lack vital necessities; but if all that we can possibly offer, or they can acquire, is the purely material, then they will walk the road (as we in the West surely have) from need to decadence, from want to self-destruction.

And, as has been said, the problem with “loving life”, in terms of valuing this-worldly good things, is that time and chance take all (as Ecclesiastes 9, 11 puts it;); all good things come to an end: beloved, loving, partners die; situations of well-being, liberty and justice can turn sour, corrupt; lovely experiences become a distant memory; meaningful occupations and activities are outlived; the most beautiful music moves – indeed rushes – to its conclusion; and if we think of the most innocent physical pleasures, such as fine food, they so often fail to give lasting satisfaction.

The things of this world, in truth, fail to satisfy in the sense of failing, always, to end the desire for more, or repetition; there is always the need for another fix, and the law of diminishing returns. Loving merely this life, I would argue, is ultimately a fraught, ill-fated, desperate, business, and so very temporary; it is actually just a compensation for what is real. Real life, and the love of it, and for it – and within it – must be life, and love, not affected by temporality, for only then can it transcend the need for renewal, and avoid the risk of souring. Real life – what, clumsily perhaps, we call “eternity” – is beyond start and finish, and loving it is not an activity that can be sought, desired, or begun at some point along its course.

I love life – but only where that means loving the life that the Lord has offered – and freely granted – us, eternal life. Loving this present life, at the end, is a chasing of temporary pleasure and consolation, and there is nothing about this life as it is that is worthy of love, or ultimate regard, as an end in itself.

Loving life means loving the Author of life and as the Book of Proverbs says (8, 36), “All those who hate Me love death”. Does this mean that I disregard this-worldly pleasures, good things which the present life offers? No; but it means that I see them at worst as fleeting, and at best – and most accurately – as signs and indicators (in effect “tasters”) of the reality of things, as reminders; as proof to me that this part of my eternity is just a fragment.