What is the meaning of life? Maybe this is not the best question to answer for a small blog post—but the question must be asked. We are here, and we will leave. Some will die in our 40’s and 50’s, a few of us will make it to our 90’s. Our lives are all very short, comparatively speaking. Nations, oceans, trees—these are old, but none of us, in comparison, are ever truly old.
Blaise Pascal, in his most famous writings from his Pensees, The Wager, wrote something similar:
“We do not require great education of the mind to understand that here is no real and lasting satisfaction; that our pleasures are only vanity;…and lastly that death, which threatens us every moment, must infallibly place us within a few years under the dreadful necessity of being for ever either annihilated or unhappy. Be we as heroic as we like, that is the end which awaits the noblest life in the world. Let us reflect on this, and then say whether it is not beyond doubt that there is no good in this life but in the hope of another; that we are happy only in proportion as we draw near it; and that, as there are no more woes for those who have complete assurance of eternity so there is no more happiness (both italics mine) for those who have no insight into it.”
Notice the connection between happiness and deeply considering and pursuing the truth. Pascal notes that happiness is at stake and he cannot understand why someone would not inquire with all of their mind into the nature of their existence. Pascal is not attacking the serious person who comes to a different conclusion than he, but rather the person who thinks questions like “Who am I?”, “Where am I going?”, “How did I get here?” are a waste of time to consider when fantasy football must be monitored and “House of Cards” must be watched. Pascal is suggesting it is ultimately folly to take oneself so lightly.
I think Pascal says it best, and summarizes his main idea, by saying, “Finally, let them recognize there are two kinds of people one can call reasonable; those who serve God with all their heart because they know Him, and those who seek Him with all their heart because they do not know Him.”
Notice Pascal did not say there are two types of wise people: religious vs. seekers, smart people vs. uninformed. No, the difference for Pascal is personal knowledge and intimacy with the Creator vs. someone seeking personal knowledge of the Creator. Before one dismisses this claim as overly narrow or foolish, hear one more way Pascal helps us see the way a Christian ought regard the seriousness of this pursuit of truth: “But as for those who live without knowing Him and without seeking Him, they judge themselves so little worthy of their own care, that they are not worthy of the care of others; and it needs all the charity we can muster.”