Everything’s boring, utterly boring—no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear (Ecclesiastes 1:8)(MSG Version).
Down here, as if by law, everything “runs out,” as Augustine puts it:
Between temporal and eternal things there is this difference: a temporal thing is loved more before we have it, and it begins to grow worthless when we gain it, for it does not satisfy the soul…(Christian Doctrine, Bk. I, Chpt. 38).
Like the setting sun, so does the luster of temporal things fade as time passes. Things get boring. Yet, what does this universal experience of boredom mean? Let’s find out.
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help…(Pascal, Pensees, #425).
Think about listening to music. The first time we hear a particular song, we know very little about it, and because we know only a little, it’s only a little good to us.
But after we’ve heard the same song a couple of times, there is more that we know; now we know the chorus and the verses, and so the song is better to us. Yet, after we have heard the same song, over, and over and over again, what happens? Something is lost.
What’s fascinating is that from the first to the tenth to the hundredth time we hear a particular song, it is exactly the same. However, our experience of it is different. Why? Because at the hundredth time, we have exhausted its intelligibility.
Everything there is to know about that song we now know, have enjoyed, and it has become tiresome to us.
Take another example, we get a new car and at first, we know only a little about it, so there is only a little to enjoy. In two days, we know even more, and so the car is even more enjoyable to us, but after five years it is old, uninteresting. We rarely think about it.
What does this prove but that all of us have a desire for a limitless good and true? And if this desire is “natural,” such that it is common to all men, then it is written in our nature, and as Aristotle says, “nature does nothing in vain” (On the Soul, Bk. III, Chpt. XII).
Therefore, just as we get thirsty because drink exists, and we get hungry because food exists, so too we all have a desire for a limitless good and true because it exists—in God. Thus, our striving for satisfaction is, itself, a search for and proof of God, who alone can fulfill us.
Imagine not knowing that. Not knowing the Gospel affirmation that we were created by God and for God. What would life be like? Would it not be a continual monotony of partial pleasures?
How frustrating would it be not knowing God, and thereby desperately striving to squeeze a limitless good out of limited things? The attempt reminds me of the Daughters of Danaus, who (according to the Greek myth) were committed to Hades with an impossible task: filling a bottomless jar.
I imagine these mythical sisters working tirelessly for an unbelievable amount of time. “Surely,” they must have thought to themselves, “the jar must be full of water by now.” Then, peeking into the jar to mark their progress, seeing no reflection, no water, only emptiness staring back at them. In the words of Scripture:
…my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13).
Such is a life estranged from the Unlimited. It is like trying to fill leaking cisterns, like pouring water into a bottomless jar, or like watching things become…boring.