We love chaos, busyness and noise. To sit still and to be alone and quiet is torture. Why? Because when we are alone, all we have is our thoughts. And for many, such quiet solitudinous thinking only leads to the realization of how empty and bored and mortal they really are.
Consider the words of Blaise Pascal…
Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things. Despite these afflictions, man wants to be happy, only wants to be happy, and cannot help wanting to be happy.
But how shall he go about it? The best thing would be to make himself immortal, but as he cannot do that, he has decided to stop himself thinking about it.
So instead of being alone and having to think about the inevitable reality of the dilemmas of human depravity and death, we seek busyness and noise. And the busyness and noise we crave usually takes the form of work, social media, and entertainment. We will do anything in order to not to have to think about the realities of the human predicament.
The danger is, however, that our desire for happiness that mutes our thoughts of mortality is really no happiness at all. It is only when we face our emptiness and boredom that we start the journey of searching for a cure. Covering up the fears we face is not the answer. Nor does it alleviate them. Just because someone or something speaks over another does not mean the quieter and more subtle voice is still not present.
We must, therefore, remove the distractions and see where the mortality of life points us. Though initially it might lead us to despair, we must look deeper. There is hope. There is a cure. But it can only be found by going back to the beginning and coming to grips with why we were created, what went wrong with everything, and what our Creator has done to restore it all.
Solomon, with his wisdom, sought to discover where true meaning and happiness in life could be found. After seeking it in prosperity, prestige, and power, he came to this conclusion: The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
To become one who is able to “stay quietly in his room,” as Pascal writes, we must daily return to who we are “in Christ.” We must remember the goodness of God found in the sending of His Son to do for us what we could not and can not do for ourselves. But this is not always easy to do. We struggle. We have days where we wonder where God is. And when we do, we turn up the noise not wanting to have to think about it. This is okay and necessary for a while, but when it becomes a lifestyle, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are really happy.
We live in a fast-paced society absorbed with noise and distractions. And before reading Pascal, I always thought that such busyness was just a product of our advancement in technology. But now, I wonder if it’s not a deeper sign of how lonely, empty, and bored we really are. We don’t want to face the reality of why we are truly not happy and so therefore, “the only good thing for men,” writes Pascal, “is to be diverted from thinking of what they are, either by some occupation that takes their mind off it, or by some novel and agreeable passion that keeps them busy.”