"Awaken us to true delight" is a quote taken from the confessions of Augustine, a famous theologian who lived up until the 5th century. He also served as the bishop or overseer of Hippo (North Africa), a part of the Roman province. He wrote many important works such as 'The City of God', 'Against the Academicians' and 'Confessions'.
The book Confessions, written more like a diary than an autobiography, serves to recount important events in the life of Augustine in a sweepingly poetic manner, screaming out echoes as it were and evidences of the working of God at every stage of his life.
In this particular work, one aspect of Augustine's life stands out. That is, his desire to pursue fleshly desires, a very lascivious and profligate lifestyle, where he sought happiness and fulfilment in both the arms of women and the pursuit of wisdom in the philosophies of his time.
It is therefore particularly befitting for him to open this classic work with a triumphant declaration of the truth he unearthed during his life's pilgrimage: "Thou awakens us to true delight, you have made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you".
A timeless classic
This quote represents a timeless classic, with a timeless message which no doubt stems from a timeless question that shall forever be asked of each generation: "Don't all people want a happy life?" Maybe you may not have thought about it. I encourage you to think about it as we peruse this important topic.
Why is it important? It is probably the number one motivation for many things in our lives: who we marry, the philosophy we adhere to, our job, our hobbies and especially how we spend our money. As the scripture says, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew chapter 6, verse 21).
I believe it is clear that men pursue and desire happiness. After all, in the Declaration of Independence, the drafters exuberantly declare the inalienable rights of man: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
There is no doubt that all seek it, albeit in different ways, but are all happy? Some hold this to be true: different things make people happy; basically setting the basis of delight in the make-up of each person and postulating the fact that it varies. Is this true? How is it that King Solomon, in all his splendour, wealth and fame, conclude that "all is vanity, a chasing after the wind?" This king tried everything and nothing satisfied.
Speaking about Epicurus, in his book 'New Testament History', F.F. Bruce says,
"The highest good according to him, was pleasure—but pleasure in the sense of peace of mind, freedom from disturbing cares, ataraxia. The more exciting pleasures of the flesh, with which Epicureanism came to be unjustly associated in much popular thought, were to be avoided, as they tended to bring corresponding pains in their train and were in any case incompatible with true peace of mind".
Epicurus was a philosopher whose name came to be associated with pleasure. It is through him the concept 'Epicureanism' emerged. These are just two examples which show not all things satisfy. Some do not, particularly the pleasures of the flesh. For Augustine, his pursuit of pleasure led to despondency and left him empty.
In Robert Louis Stephenson's book 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' the author paints a most prescient view of what could befall man through the ruin of Dr. Jekyll as he plunges himself in dissipation by way of his alter ego Mr. Hyde.
He essentially creates an alter ego to live a double life of respectability and indulgence, thinking he has it under control. His letter to his friend Lanyon paints a different picture. He says: "my virtue slumbered; my evil, kept awake by ambition, was alert and swift to seize the occasion..." He thought he had it under control, and the pleasure he so greatly enjoyed led him to his untimely ruin. This classic story embodies, I believe, the essence of life's question in the midst of different things that seek to please us: What truly satisfies? Where should we find meaning?
In 'Mere Christianity' C.S Lewis fleshes out this predicament quite accurately:
"Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise".
In this world it seems like the pursuit of pleasure is like the capturing of the fabled creature the unicorn, ever elusive; one wonders if our deep desires will ever truly be consummated.
In the field of Apologetics, there is an argument used to argue for the existence of God called 'the Argument from Desire'. This argument seeks to answer the question: do our deep human desires and longings point toward a real fulfilment? A very real question based on the predicament painted. Is there true satisfaction?
Once again Lewis gives a timely response we would do well to pay attention to:
"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world".
David, in the Bible a man known to be a man after God's own heart, says: "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple" (Psalm chapter 27, verse 4).
'Awaken us to true delight' is a plea based on an acceptance that other pursuits have failed; as Lewis quoted above "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world"; if I find that my longing remains even though all other pursuits have failed, there must be true satisfaction. I close by commending to you a conclusion on the matter from Confessions:
"This is the happy life, to rejoice in you, of you and for you. This is the happy life, and there is no other".
Paul Lewis is a Staff Worker for Inter School's Christian Fellowship in Kingston Jamaica, where he also resides. He has aspirations of becoming a Christian Apologist and he loves reading especially topics like: History, Philosophy and Theology. You can follow him on twitter @VeritasDeiVinci
Paul Lewis' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/paul-lewis.html