“I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” -Blaise Pascal
I learned really quickly in high school that you are not supposed to sit at home in your room on a Friday night. In fact, it would be better to go out with a group of people you don’t even want to be around than to stay at home in your room and do nothing. No one who has a social life is at home by themselves on a Friday night. You just don’t do that. Remember?
But when I think back to what exactly it was that I did on all those Friday nights, I struggle to remember the significance of any of it. I’m pretty sure we were all “out” simply for the fact that we could say that we were, indeed, “out.” (Bowling alleys, bars, and putt-putt golf courses make a lot of money that way, you know.) Now, I realize that relationships are built during such times and those outings are what memories are made of. Granted. However, for every one outing that was genuine, I had at least two more that were completely shallow and self-motivated… and that’s what I’m driving at.
Things haven’t changed much since high school, have they? Sure, now we’re married, have jobs, are members of churches and other organizations. My life is incredibly busy. I’m never home. In fact, a Friday night at home, alone, sounds heavenly these days. How did this happen? I have every tool in the world that should make my life simpler, easier, and give me more leisure time: car, electricity, wifi, paved roads, immunizations, cell pohne, etc., and, yet, I’m busier now than I was 10 years ago. We, as a society, are busier now than we were 200 years ago when we didn’t have such things.
Though I would never admit it, there is a certain attractiveness to a busy lifestyle. It is an indication of importance, value, security, and purpose. As much as I may complain about how busy I am, there’s at least a small part of me that isn’t really complaining… I’m bragging. Complaining is just the humble way of telling the rest of the world how important we are.
It’s hard to escape Pascal’s indictment on my insecurity. I really don’t know “how” to stay quietly in my room. I’ve never been taught “how” to do that… or why I should. Yet, if I really believed my value as a man wasn’t connected to my effort – that I am loved because of who I am and not what I do – I wouldn’t be working so hard at making myself lovable.
In short, unhappiness keeps men busy… so busy that they will think that staying busy makes them truly happy.
Do you agree with Pascal’s statement? Where are we to find happiness if not in our ability to perform? Does this change your thinking about how to communicate the Gospel to unbelievers?