Q2/7: What kind of danger is there to creating your own meaning in life?
I will first present seven dangers to creating your own meaning in life as described by Aquinas. Then I will present two main dangers to any society where leaders come up with their own meaning in life and enforce it by law.
We are blessed to look back in history and learn from other people’s mistakes. Some people have tried to create their own meaning in life, but they failed. Other people have focused on a career, a family, a good education, or a big house, and those kind of goals can be meaningful up to a certain extent, but is that all there is to life? As we saw yesterday, Aquinas pointed out several things that people look to for happiness, but they can end up miserable. Wealth, honor, fame, power, and temporary pleasures are not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but they can be.
First, wealth can turn sour if a miser becomes hateful and hoards what he has. Wealth can shine when the person makes an effort to give out of the abundance of his heart.
Second, happiness cannot be found in honor because, as Aquinas pointed out, happiness is in the happy while honor is not in the one being honored. Honor is found in the one who is giving the honor. Steadfast, lasting happiness cannot be found in receiving honor.
Third, lying reports among the famous, in order to bring someone honor, that are spread among the people is shameful. Fame is not the highest good for all people. Perfect happiness is not limited to a handful of famous people.
Next, Aquinas stated that power does not relieve the gnawings of care, nor can it avoid the thorny path of anxiety.
The fifth item that cannot bring about perfect happiness is pleasure. A wedding day can be a day of enjoyment, but all weddings come to an end. Aquinas stated that pleasures end in sadness because they are only temporary. A person can enjoy a good concert, but at the end of the night, it ends. Unless the person can express gratitude for pleasures such as a wedding day and a good concert, he might end up like a man who builds his house on the sand. His good times wash away, leaving him depressed.
Sixth, Aquinas went on to say that man is not to love for his own sake. A person who loves other people for his own sake will not find perfect happiness. Instead, man is to love others for God’s sake.
Seventh, Aquinas finished by noting that God alone satisfied the will of man. Any created good will not bring about perfect happiness.
Evangelical and apologist, Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) pointed out two dangers to creating your own meaning in life. (loss of morality, loss of freedom)
In his book, A Christian Manifesto, published in 1982, Schaeffer warned us about two important things that can crumble from within a society if a society is led by “man creates his own meaning.” Schaeffer pointed out that a society led by leaders who follow Humanism will end up opposing a Divine Moral Law, and they will end up taking away the freedom of the people. Morality and freedom will crumble in a society operated by total Humanism. By Humanism, Shaeffer means that man is the measure of all things.
In Humanism, the reality that we see today exists only as material and energy that has been shaped into its present complex form by pure chance. In Humanism, there is no place for any Divine knowledge. In a government that is guided by a philosophy according to Humanism, leaders can make laws and change laws apart from the Divine Law. In a society where leaders appoint their own moral law, apart from the Divine Moral Law, then they can write laws and change laws, without any adherence to the Divine Moral Law. However, a society that honors the Divine Moral Law will thrive, keep a sense of true morality, and experience life, liberty, and freedom. Aquinas did an excellent job describing what it means to be human. For example, if a person is a complainer, Aquinas would note that the act of complaining is an action that man is capable of acting out. The act of complaining is not human, though. The act of complaining will not give anyone perfect happiness. For a human to achieve perfect happiness, he can find it in knowing and delighting in the divine essence of our eternal Creator.