The Tragedy of the Unexamined Life
I talked yesterday about how many of my generation live destructively. I made the case that a worldview, or outlook on life, that creates such a lifestyle needs serious examining. In fact, a worldview that creates such a lifestyle needs serious discarding. One need not be an evangelical Christian with a strong respect for the sanctity of life to know innately that self-destruction is not a good thing. Anyone who has walked a field alone, or swam in warm ocean water, or known the rush of love understands that it is better to seek such moments than to ignore them. Self-destruction pushes us away from the enjoyment of life and moves us toward hatred of it. Those who seek pleasure destructively will find that instead of sating their appetite for living, the quest for undisciplined fulfillment takes it away. Don't believe me? Ask the college student who has binge drunk themself into early liver cancer. Ask the rocker who lives with pain due to a sexually transmitted disease. They'll tell you by their eyes what they might not even say with their mouths.
Those who practice the lifestyle of self-destruction, albeit with a hunger for (generally) carnal pleasure, must sublimate their conscience, moral absolutes, and common sense to do so. This takes awhile. It usually requires one to cast off any sort of serious religious affiliation. That unfastens the conscience from decision-making. It calls for a stern questioning of absolutes. Once those are gone, most anything can be justified. It necessitates a deaf ear to the wise voice of common sense. That's usually the last to go, and when it does, there's really nothing left to keep one from living just how one wishes to live. Do you ever wonder why so few people truly practice religion? I don't think there's any better reason than this: any serious religious movement makes a claim on one's behavior. People do not want that. And so they disavow religion and cut themselves loose to live just as they wish. We evangelicals spend much time thinking through why people don't love God, but it's not terribly complex, in one sense. People wish to live as they want. They can't do that and love God. It as simple as it is tragic.
Once conscience, moral absolutes, and common sense are gone, the only refuge from self-destruction is self-examination. What do I mean by that? I mean a cold, hard, honest look at life. This is the sort of thing that happens when someone close to us dies, or gets in a car accident, or contracts cancer. We think, "That might be me." Then we soul-search a bit. For the first time in a long time, we consider our lives in all their ugliness. For some, self-examination results in the disavowal not of God, but of self-destruction. For many, however, the time of pondering passes quickly, victim to the appetites of human nature. Self-examination, you see, is too dangerous. It reveals the folly of a lifestyle that seeks pleasure in destructive ways and ends. Such thinking cannot last long for the one wanting only their will. Neither will the pleasure. This is the tragedy of the unexamined life.