Emptiness. Discontentment. Striving for fulfillment. Is there no escape from the continual cycle of seeking, finding, and then growing discontent again? If not, then what difference does it make whether I seek fulfillment in the life of an animal or a man? Why not just plunge into mindless physical pleasures, living the life of an addict?
Is there such a thing as achieving perfect fulfillment? Is it possible to reach a state of fulfillment that leaves no room for improvement? Will there ever be a time when I will be done striving, done seeking fulfillment, when I have arrived? Or, am I doomed to forever striving, but never reaching, fulfillment? Is this what the Buddhists are trying to escape in their nirvana?
As I wondered about this today, I thought of heaven, and how I have often wondered how such a state of timeless bliss would be possible. Wouldn’t it get boring, singing praises to God and walking the streets of gold? I remember a sermon I heard at Main Street Baptist in Lexington, KY in which the preacher addressed this question. He said that no, it would never get old. Every time we got up from bowing down in adoration before the Almighty, we’d catch another glimpse of him and fall again in rapturous ecstasy.
And here was my answer. Even in heaven, there would be cycles of fulfillment and dissatisfaction. I think there would have to be. Fulfillment comes from reaching a goal. But once the goal has been reached, what happens then? It seems to me that the fulfillment always leaks out. You look around and see more goals, more fulfillment higher up.
The only escape is the extinction of all desire. If there are no goals, then there is no endless cycle, only endless contentment. But no fulfillment.
No. The cycles are worth it, and they are not circles. They are not endless circles going nowhere. Maybe they could be, but I think they can go down or up.
Fulfillment vs. time, option A
Option A. Going down. The path of the animal.
The animal lives only for physical pleasure. He (or she) lives for sex, alcohol, drugs, food, emotional highs, adrenaline rushes, or material possessions. He lustily pursues his goals, gorges himself, rests briefly in satisfied bliss, but finds his fulfillment leaking out, and the gnawing hole opening again in his soul. Worse, he finds that after it is done leaking out, he is at a lower level of fulfillment than he was before. He desperately seeks a new fix, a new rush, and climbs again, only to slide back, to a lower level. Each binge leaves him weaker, in a worse position, and less able to achieve higher fulfillment.
Fulfillment vs. time, option B
Option B. Going up. The man.
The man who lives as a man and not as a beast looks to the future and sees that his choices today will affect his potential for fulfillment tomorrow. He may forgo pleasure today in order to prepare himself for higher fulfillment tomorrow. He seeks fulfillment in ways that enhance his capacity for fulfillment. He forgoes the prostitute to prepare himself for the princess. And so each cycle of striving, finding, and striving finds him stronger and higher on the scale of fulfillment, with no ceiling at all. Like a man climbing a mountain, each new peak gives him grander views of the valley, but also reveals peaks higher yet.
The difference between A and B is the difference between abusers of prostitutes and saviors of princesses, it is the difference between sinking in quicksand and climbing a mountain.
And this is the answer to the riddle. The fact that there is no ultimate fulfillment, no end to the striving does not mean that it is an endless, futile cycle. It means that there is no limit.