A friend of mine recently responded to an S-O-S type email I sent him. In his response, he wrote something that made me pause and think for more than just a few seconds…. This friend wrote that another friend of his, who happens to be a Roman Catholic priest, reminded him on more than one occasion, that human beings “are (not have) pure desire.” This priest told my friend that what finally drove Friedrich Nietzsche insane was the recognition that man is, at the heart of his very being, a creature that desires what he can never have because, as Nietzsche erroneously (and sadly) concluded, what man needs to quench his infinite desire does not exist. No wonder Nietzsche went mad—to live with the notion that what (or who) one truly wants, can never be had, is utterly unbearable. But what if Nietzsche had discovered he was wrong? What if what ( or who) satisfied him completely and totally came to him and made its Presence Known?
This is the core of the Christian event—its very scandal. Christianity is to believe the truly unbelievable was actually made flesh. Being itself became one of us—became a human that lived in a particular place and time, and even beyond it. How different Nietzsche’s life might have been had he allowed himself even to consider this possibility. I don’t know why Nietzsche never allowed himself to be open to this possibility. I don’t know if his friends tried, at some point, to open his mind to the potentially mind-bending nature of this reality. Maybe his friends weren’t able to because because they’d never had the experience of Being made flesh…because once you have hungered and satisfied that hunger with real food, you know what satiety means and the memory is never erased (though the hunger will inevitably return). You can’t help but want more (and thank Being for that).
I don’t know anything about Nietzsche and his friends. But I know a lot about my own experiences and circumstances. I know that I spent many years trying to fill the void with stuff: clothes, other miscellaneous expensive things, handsome men, alcohol, whatever…. I even spent years (and might even continue doing so) trying to fill my life with ideas, books, knowledge, skills, languages, travelling, the next degree. None of the things I’ve mentioned (in either list) are bad. In fact, they are all wonderful—they all breathe life and living and I’ll never give them up. It is the turning of these things (and people) into an end in and of themselves that is problematic—problematic because none of these things (or people) has ever brought me one iota of perpetual happiness. In fact, like a toy that a child becomes tired of at Christmas, I have always moved on to something (or someone) new. That new object (or person) then became the center of my affection. And thus begins the never ending cycle of unrequited and unrelenting desire for more…beyond what I have in front of me. Greener pastures are always in sight. Or are they?
My gracious friend reminded that I am made for so much more. The truth is that I am made for Christ—the master of the universe—because only He can fulfill all of my desires. And how do I know this much is true? How can I be so certain? I’ve met the God-Man and He’s called me by name. I, too, looked to the horizon and the horizon came to me. I might want to pretend this never happened, I might want to deny it a billion times over, I might even want to curse the heavens when circumstances become unbearable (or worse, inexplicable). I might want to believe that He was a hallucination. But you and I both know that the maps changed after those “damn” Europeans finally set foot on terra incognita.
Nothing has ever been the same since.