Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal's Pensées by Peter Kreeft

Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal's Pensées by Peter Kreeft

Author:Peter Kreeft [Kreeft, Peter]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Spiritual & Religion
ISBN: 9781681496535
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Published: 2015-02-14T16:00:00+00:00




13. Diversion

We now turn from the problem (points 3-12) to modernity’s two most popular pseudo-solutions, Diversion and Indifference (points 13 and 14). Pascal diagnoses them as worse than total failures; as adding immeasurably to the problem; as two “cures” that are worse than the disease—like curing a migraine with cancer, or cancer with AIDS.

In his jeremiads against diversion and indifference, Pascal is at his most terrifyingly incisive, unendurably intimate and devastatingly unanswerable. My students are always stunned and shamed to silence as Pascal shows them in these pensées their own lives in all their shallowness, cowardice and dishonesty. He keeps doing the same to me all the time. Like the Holy Spirit.


For many years I used to bother people with a simple question that was never answered adequately until I read Pascal (the pensées in this section). It was a simple child’s question, and I asked it of philosophers, theologians, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, economists, and even ordinary, sane, real people; yet no one could give me a simple, straight answer. The question is: Why doesn’t anybody have any time today? Where did all the time go?

I think the best answer I got was “Cleveland”. If the “experts” can’t answer a simple child’s question, the world has come to a pretty sorry state.

The question is more puzzling than it seems. We ought to have much more time, more leisure, than our ancestors did, because technology, which is the most obvious and radical difference between their lives and ours, is essentially a series of time-saving devices. In ancient societies, if you were rich you had slaves to do the menial work so that you could be freed to enjoy your leisure time. Life was like a vacation for the rich because the poor slaves were their machines. We now no longer have slaves for two reasons: moral and religious principles, and the Industrial Revolution. The first made us feel guilty about slavery, and the second made slavery unnecessary. So now that everyone has many slave-substitutes (machines), why doesn’t everyone enjoy the leisurely, vacationy lifestyle of the ancient rich? Why have we killed time instead of saving it?

Your great-grandmother scrubbed clothes on a scrubbing board and cooked on a coal stove. You push buttons on washing machines and microwave ovens full of prepared food. Yet your great-grandmother had more time to talk to her daughter than you do. Why?

A simple question. Once the true answer came, I knew I’d know it. It didn’t come until I read Pascal, and then it hit me like an arrow, splitting the air and thudding into a bull’s-eye—like that scene in the movie Moonstruck where Cher asks a middle-aged man why middle-aged men chase after young women, and he answers, offhandedly and only half-seriously, “Maybe it’s the fear of death”, and Cher stops dead in her tracks and says “That’s it!”

If the pensées in this section don’t show you yourself, you probably don’t need to read any farther. You’re either very wise or very foolish.


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