“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

One of my great joys is reading Blaise Pascal’s writings (1623-1662). He made huge contributions to the sciences of the 17th c., as a pioneer, especially in what we now call computers – he was a very smart young man.

After his premature death aged just 39, a collection of his thoughts and writings were printed in what is called Pensees, and they amount to a brilliant apologetic defense of Christianity.

He is most famous I guess for what we call ‘Pascal’s Wager’ – the argument that on the balance of probability, it is better and wiser to choose Christian faith in God than not.

He has many brilliant insights into human nature, and one of his most famous thoughts perfectly sums up the core of his argument, especially apt during this enforced slowing down of our way of life:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”


Continue reading ““All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.””

The Span of My Life

415poJLcTBL“When I consider the span of my life absorbed into the eternity which comes before and after – as the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but a day – the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which knows nothing of me, I take fright and am amazed to see myself here rather than there; there is no reason for me to be here rather than there, now rather than then.  Who put me here?  By whose command and act were this time and place allotted to me?”



Blaise Pascal, Pensees, Section one: Papers Classified by Pascal:  III Wretchedness 68, pg. 19 (Penguin Classics, 1995)

Outsmarting my Smartphone

I am conducting a self-experiment.  I am going to “boldly go” where a small but increasing number of people are going:  to take a break from a “thing” that makes this life both connected and detached; I’m attempting to outsmart my smartphone.

One of my favourite singers, Paulo Nutini, in his great song Coming Up Easy has these words which, although he is talking about the love of his lady (or drugs, according to some), they nevertheless capture my dilemma with the smartphone phenomenon:

“I’m afraid it looks like we’re
Gonna have to go our separate ways.
You see the thing is I love you, I love you
But you see I resent you all the time.”

Continue reading “Outsmarting my Smartphone”

The Denial of God in Western Culture

SICK-nietzscheI’ve been wondering if Friedrich Nietzsche’s denial of God and his own subsequent madness is not a potential parable of the present state of Western “civilisation”.  I know, I know, that’s probably way too simplistic.  Those who quite like Nietzsche and his philosophy will no doubt take great offence.  But, in some ways, many ways, he does represent that culmination of philosophical Enlightenment thought that simply wants to do away with God (and by ‘God’ I mean the God of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, fully and finally revealed in Jesus Christ).

YAZThe upshot of a cultural trend, the imperialist triumph of so called rationalism, empiricism, scientism and so on, not to mention their bastard offspring, secularism, militant atheism, capitalism and so on, is what we in the Western world are experiencing today, in our own culture and sub-cultures.  The decline of Christendom (thank God – Christendom is not to be confused with Christianity), the emergence of a post-modern age, and a whole lot of study on what the hell is going on.  Everyone keeps telling us we are free; that we are  enlightened and less superstitious; wealthy and healthy; that the only way is up (thanks Yaz and the ironically named Plastic Population).  Perpetual progress!  But we instinctively know it’s not quite like that don’t we?  We have been set adrift from our cultural moorings into a vast sea of economically driven secularist mumbo-jumbo.  Nothing on the horizon.  Where is the Superman that Nietzsche wrote about?  Even he has let us down, and we’re surprised!

I came across this great comment by well known critic Leslie Fiedler, who commented on the post-Christendom shift. fiedlersm He said we are “the more desolating because there’s no God to turn to.  God has been abolished by the media pundits and other promoters of our new demythologised divinity.  We continue to insist that change is progress, self-indulgence is freedom and novelty is originality.  In these circumstances it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that Western man has decided to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brings the walls of his own city tumbling down.  Having convinced himself that he is too numerous, he labours with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer, thereby delivering himself the sooner into the hands of his enemies.  At last, having educated himself into imbecility and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keels over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and becomes extinct.”

Some may say that is a tad too pessimistic, but it isn’t.  It’s the kind of realism we need to hear if Fiedler is even half right.  If anything, I think he’s being poetically kind and prophetically insightful.  This is what a culture inevitably becomes when it believes “God is dead!”  Nietzsche would turn in his grave if he were still alive!  I think even he would be shocked at our soulless arrogance.

I’m tempted to wheel out the brilliant critic of Nietzsche, G. K. Chesterton, because they were very close in time.  But I will resist and plumb for someone that Nietzsche should have read (maybe he did but no-one told me), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), who wrote,

Pascal“It is vain of men that you seek within yourselves the cure for all your miseries.  All your insight only leads you to the knowledge that it is not in yourselves that you will discover the true and the good.  The philosophers have promised them to you and they have not been able to keep their promise.  They do not know what your true good is or what your true state is.  How should they have provided you with a cure for ills which they have not even understood.  Your principle maladies are pride, which cuts you off from God, and sensuality, which binds you to the earth.  And they have done nothing but foster at least one of these maladies.  If they have given you God for your object, it has been to pander to your pride.  They have made you think you were like him and resemble him by your nature.  And those who have grasped the vanity of such a pretension have cast you down in the other abyss by making you believe that your nature is like that of the beast of the field and have led you to seek your good in lust, which is the lot of animals.”

If only Nietzsche had read Pascal.  If only we would, I feel it would be a cure for many ills, not least the most problematic of all human conditions:  The desire to be God, whilst denying the possibility He even exists making demands (that all people everywhere repent), and promises (I am with you always).  This desire to be gods is the very desire that we need saving from, and saved from it we have been if we will trust in Jesus Christ and believe what he says about Himself, us and the world.  Therein lies salvation and a whole pile of joy.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑