We are born naked and bawling.
Why are we here?
What’s the point?
Where’s the manual?
It’s to achieve “success,” right? You want to be a “success in life.”
Okay, so what is success?
“Success: noun. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
Wait a minute. That’s circular. So if I decide my only aim is to keep my belly button clean, I have more or less guaranteed myself a great life?
Welcome to Buddhism 101.
Yet this seems too simple. This seems, in the end, utterly pointless.
Some—most—define success more specifically, as acquiring significant wealth, or social status. But doesn’t that, too, seem ultimately pointless? Wealth beyond a certain point is just a symbol, because what it can do to change your life is limited. And, whatever it can do to change your life, studies show that it does not, really does not, bring happiness.
It tends to cost friends. Either they envy you, or they want money from you. You never know if they really care for you, or just want the money.
What does it do that makes it worth a life?
Striving for social status seems even worse: it means living your life in someone else’s eyes. It is like being a ghost. Those who achieve fame, supposedly the pinnacle of this, tell us it is not an enjoyable thing. You are no longer your own.
But wait. Isn’t the answer implicit here? We speak of money or fame not bringing happiness. Isn’t the real goal, then, the pursuit of happiness?
Looks good for a moment, but no. Isn’t that, too, ultimately meaningless? Not that there is no clear formula for achieving it. Not that one cannot even experience happiness, it seems, except in contrast with sadness, making a quest for happiness seem like chasing one’s tail. That is all true; but more importantly, happiness itself seems trivial and selfish. Okay, so you are happy, with lots of hot sex and a Marguerita balanced rakishly on your gut, for seventy or eighty years; then you die. Was that life meaningful? And is it right, is it worthy of human dignity, to even be happy so long as you know a lot of people in the world are suffering?
Pigs are happy like that, perhaps, but not people.
So what’s the point? Is it all vanity?
It was actually all worked out by the ancient Greek philosophers: by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. There are certain things that are indisputable, self-evident values in themselves, of absolute consequence. These, therefore, are the things we are here to seek. These are the good (the moral right), the true, and the beautiful. Wasting time pursuing anything else, beyond necessity, is losing the game. Every thing else is a cul de sac.
If our culture and civilization is currently in a morass, it is because we have lost this direction.
Not incidentally, the perfection of the good, the true, and the beautiful is God. As God is by definition a perfect and supreme being, he must be perfectly good, perfectly true, and perfectly beautiful. Moreover, each instance of truth, goodness, or beauty is a glimpse of His being. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light”: I am the good, the true, the beautiful.
And so, put another way, our ultimate goal in life is to find and become closer to God. To find and follow the way, the good; to seek and say the truth, the real; to seek and to make beauty.
Welcome to the human race. Now at least you know the rules.
There is a fourth element: the motive power. The seeking. What is the natural vigour that impels us to these values? That fourth element, as fundamental then as the others, is love. One must love the good, absolutely. One must love the truth, absolutely. One must love beauty, absolutely. One must worship no false gods before them.
Hence the first commandment: to love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind. Mind for the truth, heart for the good, soul for beauty.
If you cannot do that, if you do not do that, you cannot love anyone other than God either. Nobody who does not love the truth can really love another human. I am not sure why this is so; but I know it is so. Nor can anyone who does not love good, or does not love beauty, love another human. You might want to own them, or have sex with them, or get something from them, but you do not love them.
Anyone who loves the good, the true, and the beautiful, loves God. He or she is a Christian, whether they have ever heard the name “Jesus” or not. The name is not important; it is not even his real name. The man would not have responded to the name “Jesus” if hailed on the streets of Jerusalem. It is the cosmic Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, to which we must turn for salvation.
Anyone who does not love with full heart the good, the true, and the beautiful does not love God or Jesus, and is not a Christian, whatever words they use. And does not love any man, whatever words they use. And has failed in the race.