A few years ago I was reading a survey of influential writers through church history, and the writer commented that some books are worth a profound sentence or two. I tend to agree. The counter-argument is easily anticipated. “Why read an entire book just for a profound sentence or two?” Well, wisdom is often conveyed via the proverb, the maxim, the aphorism. I read more than anyone I know and even the best of books have some slow parts (Shakespeare’s tragedies, I would argue, are obvious exceptions to the generalization).
This week I read another of Dennis Prager’s books: Happiness Is a Serious Problem. I devoured the book. Prager is a conservative thinker, theologian, radio host, and writer. His book, Still the Best Hope, is a gem I wish everyone would read.
But when I read Happiness Is a Serious Problem, this was the part worth the price of the whole book:
This is where the modern secular world often undermines people’s happiness. A purely secular understanding of existence can only mean that the world ultimately has neither purpose nor meaning. This is not the place to argue which view of the universe–the religious understanding of a purposeful universe or the secular understanding of a random one–is more accurate. There is, after all, no way to know. What is knowable is the consequences of the two views.
If there is no God, no Higher Being, no ultimate guiding hand that imbues creation with meaning and purpose, then creation does not have those qualities. As much as we may find our work, family, friends, and social causes a source of meaning, a secular universe means that there is no ultimate meaning to any of these things. We have made up all these meanings in order not to despair. It is quite difficult to be happy if we stare into the mirror each morning and see only the random product of meaningless forces, stellar dust that happens to be self-aware (105).
The rest of the book is worth the time and investment, but those two paragraphs approach the heart of the issue.
As I try to minister to a generation who has largely bought the secular lie that they are just cosmic dust but should, for some purely subjective non-anchorable reason, feel their lives have significance, this binary seems so obvious.
Definitely worth the read in my view. Tolle Lege.
2 thoughts on “Sometimes, It’s Just a Line; Sometimes a Paragraph (or Two)”
I am glad you enjoy Shakespeare, but I must have been forced to read a different Shakespeare in school. I found it “slow” from the beginning to the end, and everywhere in between. Hahaha!
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I was fortunate to have had some excellent teachers: Jim Nichol and Dennis McKevlin, especially. I learned to see the plays performed live on stage. That was key. And watching the best actors play the roles of Lear and Hamlet and Brutus and Romeo and Juliet and Puck, it’s hard to be beat. But I had passionate scholars who encouraged me when I was young, and that was a huge blessing to me. (For what it’s worth, the feeling you have about reading Shakespeare in school is one I share when it comes to reading most of Henry James’ stuff: yuck.)