Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pleasure Misplaced

Pleasure Misplaced
by I'Ching Thomas - A Slice of Infinity

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes an imaginary exchange between a senior devil and his pupil on the subject of pleasure:
"He (God) made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All

we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.

Any pleasure--whether good or illegitimate--will enslave us when we turn it into our life's utmost pursuit. Hunger for even the simple pleasure of food can become a life-dominating drive. The first temptation of Jesus in the desert was to fulfill a perfectly legitimate bodily need. He was naturally hungry, having fasted for forty days and nights, when Satan suggested that he turn stones into bread. Today, we wrestle with the same suggestion from Satan: What's wrong with fulfilling normal bodily needs? Didn't God make you this way? Yet Satan's temptation is to reduce humans' ultimate pursuit to merely one of pleasure--the idea that sensual pleasure drives all of our motivations and needs. Jesus responded with Scripture: "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4). By reiterating this truth, Jesus replaces Satan's view with the proper will to meaning view. As humans, we cannot live on food alone. We must have meaning and purpose to survive. In his experience in a Nazi concentration camp, psychologist Victor Frankl discovered that when men lost meaning they quickly died. Mankind needs a transcendent reason to continue striving against the struggles that life presents. Now this is not to say that there is no value in pleasure or that pleasure is not a legitimate goal. But pleasure can become a distraction or digression in the serious quest for life. When pleasure or the pursuit of it begins to distract us from life's ultimate goal, it can become an idol of the heart--not just something we might worship, but something we rely on to give us some sense of security, however fleeting.

Read the rest at A Slice of Infinity

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