When I was a kid there was a Peggy Lee song that played on the radio called “Is That All There Is?” It was a rather nihilistic lament about how life was nothing more than a relentless string of disappointments making life utterly meaningless – which makes you wonder how such a depressing song could have possibly enjoyed popularity. I suppose what gave it relatability was the way it concluded that hedonistic self-indulgence was the only remedy for dulling the pain of such disillusionment . . . even though that didn’t really seem to lift the dark cynicism of its primary question: Is that all there is?
To be sure, even life at its best can be a bit of a grind — add to this the ever opening trap doors of personal difficulties and tragedies, and the general milieu of disenfranchisement inevitably at work within every social structure . . . you can begin to feel the weight of the world shifting onto your shoulders. And if then, God forbid, you should begin to ponder your own mortality, or the prospect of how our sun may unexpectedly go nova – it’s no longer just the weight of the burden you feel, but the pointlessness of it all, draining from you any sense of hope. Makes me wonder how an atheist makes it through their day without succumbing to the temptation of Peggy Lee’s epicurean song.
This is the avalanche of despair the non-theist attempts to hold off with the self-involved sophistry of their existential ontology – believing that if we’ll only pretend there’s somehow a purpose to be found in arduously rolling our Sisyphus stone up an impossibly steep incline, we can manufacture our own meaning ex nihilo. Never mind, that every morning the stone is back at the bottom again. And it never occurs to them, if survival of the species is ultimately pointless — “if that’s all there is” . . . then why bother?
But the godless aren’t the only ones willing to pointlessly roll that stone. I’m reminded of how Cardinal Bernadine described the state of modern Christendom as living lives of “functional atheism” – Christians professing belief in God, but living as if he doesn’t actually exist. In this way, they create their own stone of self-importance to roll — a meaning and purpose made in their own image. This is what comes from the contrived notion that the sacred and secular can somehow be parsed into two separate lives, believing that the meaning and significance of life can have more than one source.
The fact that we are contingent upon God is an immovable ontological truth – but not in some general way we can simply push off into vague abstraction, rather, it permeates every atom of the universe, at every moment of existence. So the idea that we can simply invent our own meaning and purpose out of thin air is the very lie Adam and Eve fell for in the garden. The truth is, life only has one purpose, one for which all other purposes are meant to be subservient. And according to Colossians 1:16, 17 – it is Christ “. . . all things were created through him and for him” It is this preeminence of Christ that breathes purpose into all that we are – a meaning and significance, that no amount of pointless stone rolling could ever hope to equal . . . so just let that stone roll away.
Purpose and meaning are either transcendently sourced
. . . or they don’t exist at all!