A certain day this week is my birthday, so I thought I would just ramble a bit.
The line in the Bible that I most strongly connect to is Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” We all hunger, whether we feed our hungers or not, and not only for food. I might say that I “crave” a good book or a good Catholic rock band, using the same language as I might about a good burger, but as anyone willing to give it a thought should know, there is a hierarchy of hungers (as there is in all things.)
Hunger in this sense can be spiritual, psychological, or physical; a list that also gives us a bare framework from which to begin to order our appetites. Physical needs are the smallest (if not in importance to us then in importance in an ultimate sense) needs–I might die from a lack of a good burger, but it holds no importance to anyone but me and carries with it very little meaning besides a transitory and shallow nature.
This, for all that few in our day and age will acknowledge it, also applies to sexual pleasures–at least if they are divorced from procreation and a permanent, meaningful unitive relationship (in which case it satisfies the latter two levels of appetites; in the presence of something more it can be meaningful, if not satiate, on all three.) Sexual pleasures can be among the highest heights Man may achieve, but in our degraded state it is usually actually among the lowest and also the most dangerous; this is why the Church has wrapped sexual appetites around with protections–both to protect sex so that it may flower and to protect us from it, that we might not be consumed.
The next-smallest of hungers are the intellectual. I can crave a good book of philosophy, and without it my intellect–my mental ability to hold within me an abstract form without being the substance and shape of which that form is made–can atrophy. It won’t kill me, but I am far more likely to cause lasting social harm to those around me; ignorance being a deprivation more likely to harm others than simple physical hunger. This gives it more meaning than my craving a good burger unto the point of death for those around me, but it is not solely this way in which these appetites are greater than the ones before them.
In thinking, I am interacting with a higher reality than what is merely conveyed through the senses–I might perceive it first through the senses, but in the mind it truly is within me. It might or might not be incorporated into me in the fullest sense, depending on whether I accept the abstraction or merely entertain it for a while, but it truly is inside of the mind in the fullest sense. This is not to say we are not our bodies too, or that we are not what we eat in some sense–far be it! But when, in Matthew 15:11 Jesus talks about us not being defiled by what we eat he is obliquely mentioning the fact that the mind, as part of our soul, is the highest peak of our existence. Our minds, and the ideas (the abstractions) that it contains, are the topmost point of the iceberg, where we help give ourselves some shape on top of the great mass of what we cannot choose about ourselves.
Finally, we come to the spiritual–which could just as easily be called the eternal, the two words are often interchangeable. Now, in hungering for the eternal we are reaching for something we understand only dimly and indirectly–that is why it is so easy to mistakenly think we are craving something we can readily experience; the immediacy of the sensual can overwhelm the quiet voice of our own spirit. But nonetheless we are hungering for something real with a craving that can never be satisfied for the same reason we can never really understand an unending number sequence–we are finite, and the object of our desire in infinite.
The reason why our spiritual (eternal/insatiable) hunger is more important than, say, my desire for a good Catholic roleplaying game is that in participating in the spiritual world we are moving our very self in the eternal, timeless plane of existence that exceeds our current world in every good… and bad. We are either stretching ourselves toward the infinite in the eternal dimension as God’s grace is poured into us as we accept him… or we are crushing ourselves inward into infinitely small points as we accept lesser spirits as our guides and goals. We either become eternal planets revolving around God as our Light, greater even than the angels, or we become less than a grain of sand on the floor a furnace, shrunken even beneath the unclean spirits.
Anyway. Just getting back into the habit of writing for myself rather for a class. I’m still getting used to being done with college–it only took me eleven and a half years to finish… and darn it, I never even failed a class–I was simply interrupted that often (and slow to boot.)
Anyway, I hope you all have a happy January –th, though I know to most of you it will have no special meaning. Merry Christmas to those still celebrating (as you should be.)