Why are we here? What is the purpose? Where can meaning be found? There comes a point in culture where meaninglessness begins to reap its reward in people’s thinking. Despair can become common. When previous generations succumbed to nihilism – the belief in nothing – they generally fell into gloomy dispondence. But what come after despair? David Wells suggests that it is humour…
By the 1990s, when we encounter the television series Seinfeld, for example, this sense of internal loss and disorientation had been turned into a brilliantly acted but completely banal sitcom. Seinfeld, Thomas Hibbs writes, was “a show about the comical consequences of life in a world void of ultimate significance of fundamental meaning.” This show, he adds, was “by its own account, a show about nothing.” The darkness of soul had lifted, though not its emptiness. Now we were no longer serious enough to do anything but smirk. The journey into the postmodern world, from the writers of this literature of bewilderment into television shows like this, is one from darkness in the depths to mockery on the surface, from suicide to shallow snickers. The Void is the constant; how we live with it is where the differences arise. – David F Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs, page 188.
Okay, nobody wants to be too hard on Seinfeld. I loved that show when it was on and I would probably still watch re-runs if I had a TV and cable. The point is that meaninglessness – a serious problem – results in a collective inability to take anything seriously. Does this sound like it rings true for our culture today? If life does not have any objective, transcendent meaning than maybe we won’t find despair but lots and lots of ‘good times’ on a surface level.
If there is a crisis of meaning among us today than we need a solution to it. We need more imagination and an objective anchor to which we can point that imagination. C S Lewis called our imagination ‘the organ of meaning’. He didn’t mean imagination in the sense of making up something fake. Imagination is setting our sights on the highest ideals and aspirations possible. Human beings need meaning and they need to find it somewhere other than in themselves. If we look for it only in ourselves we will end up having little “Seinfeld lives” – lives about nothing but our own goals, whims, and wants.
There is a better place to cast our imagination. On the reality that is in Christ. He is the most real, the most beautiful, and ultimate source. Listen to what is said about Him: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 ESV. Imagine that! And then try, just try, to have a meaningless life.