Saturday, September 15, 2012

Conquest of the External World Mitigates Against Conquest of the Soul

If you're reading this,  then comparatively (historically and contemporarily), you are wealthy.
If having money and more and more stuff brought people happiness and contentment, then Americans (and you) should be among the happiest and most content people who have ever lived. But, of course, we are not.

The lesson, thus, is: the answer to a flourishing inner life is not to be found in materialism and consumerism. In fact, David Wells suggests that a flourishing life is in inverse proportion to a life dedicated to acquiring more and more money so as to purchase more and more things. Wells writes:

"The Enlightenment world, which had promised so much, was showing the first symptoms of the postmodern ethos of the West, of that curdling of the soul that would leave the human being replete with goods, smothered in plenty, but totally alone in the cosmos, isolated, alienated, enclosed within itself, and bewildered. The conquest of the world, the triumph of technology, and the omnipresence of shopping malls--our temples to consumption--are not the tools by which the human spirit can be repaired. Of that there should be no doubt now, for if affluence, and the bright, shiny world in which it arises, could be the solvent of all human maladies that lie submerged beneath the surface of life, then this anomie, this bewilderment of soul, would long since have been banished. The truth, in fact, is that the conquest of our external world seems to be in inverse relation to the conquest of our inner world. The more we triumph in the one, the less we seem able to hold together in the other. (In John Piper and Justin Taylor, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, p. 39)

Conquest of the external world mitigates against conquest of one's soul.