Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
PLEASURE IS AN INDISPENSABLE ELEMENT IN HUMAN LIFE. God put pleasure in the use of things to get us to use them. Self-preservation is the first and most powerful drive in human nature. God put pleasure in eating and drinking to insure that we will take enough nourishment to preserve our lives. Race preservation is the second most powerful drive in human nature. God put pleasure in the act whereby the race would be preserved. If it were not for this pleasure there would never be any danger of the over-population of the world.
BUT THE UNDISCIPLINED, UNRESTRAINED PLEASURE-SEEKING IS SELF-DESTRUCTIVE. We can eat, drink and work ourselves to death. When most of the world does not have enough food to eat, obesity is a grave national problem for us. Orson Wells said that 1/3 of the food he eats keeps him alive and the other 2/3 keeps the doctors alive. Our desires always exceed our capacity. Anticipation is always greater than the reality, both in pleasure and in pain. There are limits to human power but there are no limits to human desires.
WHAT WE NEED MOST AND WANT LEAST IS DISCIPLINE. This is the battle of life. As infants we are guided by pleasure. We never learn. We will be fooled throughout their lives. That is why there is no fool like an old fool. You can’t beat experience. We should be willing, at least at times, to sacrifice the short-term pleasure for the long-term happiness.
WE LOVE PEOPLE AND WE USE THINGS. The most subtle and serious delusion of an affluent society such as ours is to love things, and to use people to get the things we love. People become a pawn, a means to an end.
THINGS ARE GOOD, GOOD IN THEMSELVES AND GOOD FOR OTHERS. Take for example the power in the atom. It is good in itself, holding the atom together, and it is good for others, in that it can be the source of energy and many other things beneficial to humanity. Evil is in the will of man, who can use this power to destroy humanity.
GOD MADE US STEWARDS OF CREATION. But we do not have absolute dominion. One day we will have to give an account of our stewardship. We cannot pollute the air we have to breathe, the water we have to drink and the land on which we have to live.
IF THINGS COULD MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY Americans would be the happiest people in the world. We have more things than any generation in history. Things will never satisfy our “transcendental neediness.” There will always be the “divine discontent.” As St. Augustine has it, “Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
WE LIVE IN A CONSUMER SOCIETY. The danger in a consumer society is that we think “more is better.” This is a dangerous delusion. We begin by possessing things and end by things possessing us. Advertising is good. We need to know what and where to get the things we need. But often under the guise of alleviating needs advertising creates new needs. It can also promote “conspicuous consumption” when we buy what we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom, freedom and peace.
IN A CONSUMER SOCIETY, SUCH AS OURS, IT IS THE CONSUMER WHO HAS THE POWER. The consumer ultimately determines what kind of clothes, cars and movies are made. I am a consumer and a polluter. I should take a good look at my life style.
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