Capax Dei Eo mens est imago Dei, quo capax Dei est et particeps esse potest. St. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV:11

Wednesday, April 17, 2002 :::

What can we know about what God intends us to be?

Clearly, whatever it is is something we are capable of being. And two things that jump out at us, when we look at the question of what human beings are capable of, are knowing and loving.

The dual ability to know and to love are what makes us persons. The way they operate in us is that, first we know, and then we love. We gain knowledge of something or someone, and then (possibly) we love that thing or one. And our love is a transforming love: we become like what we love. In the end, we simply become what we love.

If we become what we love, and if happiness requires that we become what God intends us to be, we must love what God intends us to be.

What are our choices of what to love?

::: posted at 10:01 PM

Tuesday, April 16, 2002 :::

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He is happy who seeks refuge in him.
-- Psalm 38:9

To be perfectly ourselves is to be fully what we are intended to be. (For now, rather than invent and rebut arguments against the outrageously teleological claims made in this post, we'll make a note of their speculativeness and move on.)

Any honest self-appraisal will show that we are not the ones who intend us to be something. We didn't create ourselves, our particular instances of human nature. We can create individual images of our perfected selves, then form ourselves in those images, but insofar as these self-created images differ from the images of the One who created us, this is a formula for unhappiness.

Happiness, then, is to be fully what God intends us to be.

How do we determine what God intends us to be? The reality of what God intends us to be is so astonishing, so beyond anything we might reasonably expect, that God had to give us His Revelation for us to know it in its fullness. But we can reason our way, based on what we know of human nature and with the sure guide of Scripture, up to the brink of the Gospel.

::: posted at 4:51 PM

Monday, April 15, 2002 :::

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. -- Ecclesiastes 3:12

Recall that happiness is not a sense of gratification, or any other emotion, but the final end of every human life. As a final end, happiness must satisfy every desire the human being is capable of.

That doesn't sound right, does it? A human being is capable of mutually exclusive desires -- to be thin and to eat chocolate all day long, for example. A person with mutually exclusive desires can never be happy, obviously, since there is necessarily something he desires that he does not have.

But each specific desire is an instance of a more fundamental desire. "I want to be thin," might be an expression of the desire to be healthy (which is an expression of the desire to live) or of the desire to be attractive (which is an expression of the desire to be loved). On examination, these fundamental desires are seen to take the form, "I want this or that ability I have to be perfected."

Human beings may have right or wrong ideas on the ways in which their abilities can be perfected, but they all share the desire to perfect them. Furthermore, all human beings have the same set of abilities to be perfected. This is what "human nature" means: a form of existence that has the set of abilities possessed by all human beings. (While a particular human being may possess a particular ability only potentially -- as, for example, a blind person is only potentially able to see -- this does not make the human being any less human.)

We can see, then, that happiness means the same thing to every human being: the perfection of everything human nature is capable of. Now, perfection is a highly individual matter; the perfection of Shakespeare's poetry is different from the perfection of Basho's poetry, even though both are perfections of the poetry that human nature is capable of. Essentially, a happy person is perfectly himself.

So, how do we become perfectly ourselves?

::: posted at 11:25 AM


Eo mens est imago Dei, quo capax Dei est et particeps esse potest. St. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV:11

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