Monday, September 22, 2008

The Void

A blog reader wrote:

What is the truth out there, I am desperate to do a survey to find out is there really a void in everyone that only God can fill? Even for unbelievers?

No - there isn't. Flip it round: is every single believer completely happy and fulfilled? Do none of them have "voids"? Do believing, practising Christians never get depressed or even commit suicide?

Another way to think about it: does someone with only three children have a "void" because their friend has four children? I think voids are irrelevant to our capacity to feel and to love. There doesn't have to be a specific number of quantity of [stuff] to fill the void.

One more thing: I think there are voids that can never be filled. When someone dies, there is nothing that can fill that void. There are other things that can maybe help mask or distract from the pain of that void (such as finding a new spouse, or having another child).

But does the original void go away? Never ever ever. Not all the gods in the universe could fill it.

And here is my response:

I used to feel something that could be called a void. When I was in my twenties, I think I felt some need to find the meaning of life or my existence, and I went back and forth between existential angst and nihilistic hostility.

I wonder now if that was just an excuse for not wanting to grow up and do something with my life and take responsibility for my actions.

I don't feel a void now. I don't feel the need to seek God or the meaning of life or the reason for my existence. I feel I've found the best that life has to offer: love. As corny as that sounds, I've found love in the perfect husband for me (okay, he has some flaws I could complain about, but nothing compared to mine!), and two kids I love so much it's ridiculous. And, as an added bonus, I have the love of friends who have proven to me that Hobbes (the philosopher who I thought in my twenties was closest to the truth about the human condition) was wrong.

Philosophers might be disappointed that life's essence comes down to something as mundane and common as a loving family, but they can go and ponder away at the meaning of life while I bask in the love and happiness of my family and friends.

10 comments:

Monique Doyle Spencer said...

At the end of the day, faith is a demand more than it is a comfort. It may provide solace to feel God's love but I am more aware of the commands -- to hope, to love, to care for the least among us.

Shin said...

Monique,

When we were growing up, my parents had a plaque on the wall that said, "Faith, hope, love. And the greatest of these is love."

I used to think that was too corny, too Pollyanna, too Hallmark. But I see now that if anything should rule the world and us, it should be love.

danchessari said...

Hi Shin,

I hope this note finds you OK. You sound complete ! Have you ever read a book - when bad things happen to good people ? Whilst I am not jewish it was written by a jewish rabbi called harold kushner I thought it may interest you.

Shin said...

Danchessari,

No, I haven't read "When Bad Things Happen To Good People", but I've heard of it.

Can you tell me the gist of what it says? Let me guess... that bad things happen to both good and bad people and good things happen to both good and bad people and it's not a matter of deserving what happens but how we deal with what happens to us that determines what we get out of life.

And then it tells you how to deal with disappointments, tragedies, and other bad things in life.

Just a guess. Am I close?

Amy said...

Dear Shin- When bad things happen to good people is the personal story of a rabbi who lost his son to a rare genetic disease. The author/ rabbi reviews the OT book of Job which is about suffering and loss among other themes.The most profound message I got from his book came from his summary of the family tragedy. He wrote something like..."I am a better father, a better husband, a better rabbi, teacher.. and so on since I lost my son. And I'd give it all back to have him back."...

Shin said...

Amy,

Obviously, I stink at judging a book by its title!

I never liked the story of Job. Torturing someone into proving his love/faith/loyalty seems too cruel.

danchessari said...

Hi Shin,

Well Amy nailed it so no need to go any further with that one. In terms of you saying that you void is filled with love - I don't believe there is anything 'corny' in that. I know you are not a big fan of the bible but have a read of this quote - I'm sure you have seen it before:

"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Shin said...

Danchessari,

I know this passage. The part that goes, "Love is patient, love is kind..." I used to think that came from Shakespeare or Edmond Rostand because these two playwrights have written similar lines.

I think this is a beautiful passage. There's a lot I don't like in the Bible, but I have to admit that it makes for good literature, especially poetry like this.

Thanks for posting the entire passage for me and others to appreciate.

Doubting Thomas Tang said...

Hi Shin,

Obviously I realised this is a topic for me to post a comment isn't it? :)

Now where shall I start? mmmm...
Ok imagine you don't have cancer, you have a wonderful family and husband, the love and happiness of your family and friends, you got a great career, children's all grown up with wonderful lives, you happily retired with Tony so after imagining all this you ask yourself do I have a void? I think this is the answer I am trying to find out, does everyone in their entire lives have and will realise that they have a void that nothing in this world can satisfy and conclusively for our discussion only God can.

Translate->does everyone has a need for God at some point in their lives? This is the answer I am trying to find out and still searching for. The many great writers and speakers guiltably christians that I read and listened to says yes. Everyone needs God at some point in their lives.

I guess I would know your answer is No. I'll put you on the list of people that will never ever need God. But how about others? There will be other people like you also but there are others as well who would fall into the category who will need God.

I've been thinking to myself why are human beings "what's next" creature. What's next after I study, what's next after I come out and work, what's next after I marry, what's next after I have children etc. And always when I have gotten the next from the what's next, I'll look to the what's next. C.S Lewis wrote if you have a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, perhaps you are made not for this world but for another world. Again this is another question that I'll like to survey, is it me that I am feeling this way or everybody feels this way as well?

Shin said...

Doubting Thomas Tang,

I'd like to respond to your comment in a blog post soon. Stay tuned...