In one of the most famous lines in Christian literature, St. Augustine wrote, “You made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” We all have restless hearts, a seemingly unquenchable thirst, because we’re made for God. We’re made to be with him in heaven. We’re made to see him face-to-face. Right now, however, we’re not there. We’re not fully with him, and we can’t fully see him. So, in this land of exile, we experience a deep and sometimes agonizing existential loneliness.
Like St. Augustine, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal also had an amazing way with words. Writing in the 17th Century at a time when kings held absolute power in their dominions and everyone seemed to envy them, Pascal came up with an insightful theory to explain why everyone wants to be king. He said everyone wants to be king because kings can wage wars, conduct the affairs of state, throw big parties, and always be surrounded by a whirlwind of people. In other words, the king gets to be perpetually distracted. Distracted from what? Distracted from the fact of his unhappiness, his existential loneliness.
Pascal held that the worst torture for modern man is to be quiet and alone in his own room. Why? Because solitude brings out the beast of our loneliness. Of course, even in the midst of distraction, the beast is still there gnawing at our hearts. (Even in the middle of a crowd, we can often feel him chewing away.) But distraction helps numb us to his constant gnawing. Thus, people in Pascal’s day envied the king, and in our day, people still want to live like kings. Yes, with our cell phones, iPods, and e-mail, some might say we’ve become “royally good” at distracting ourselves.
Christ teaches another way. He tells us we don’t have to numb the pain of our loneliness. He calls out to us, “I can quench your thirst! I can give your hearts rest!”
From Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Michael E. Gaitley, MIC