The Most Important Thing

In a wide-reaching survey, 179 people were asked what is [the] most important thing in life? Their answers ranged from love, health, friendship, happiness, peace, helping others, freedom, women, family, money, I don’t know, respect, the environment, oxygen etc. It is indubitable that all these things are important because they contribute tremendously to our well-being. But something is lacking in this answer for it is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness (Summa Theologiae II, Q 1, art 8), according to Aquinas. The most important thing in life must include something that remains when all is taken away. It must be something sustainable. The most important thing in life must be sufficient unto itself and be beneficial to us. It must provide safety and confidence in the midst of the storms of life. Whatever it is, I believe it must be something that keeps us going against all odds. But none of the answers seems to have those rudimentary elements. So are the aforementioned elements the most important thing in life?

To be fair to the responders however, there was an answer that I found striking. Someone said the most important thing in life is to find our purpose and pursue it. Yes purpose. We are purpose-driven people. We thrive best when we know what we want out of life. We are each created with a purpose and there is no greater sweetness to life than finding that purpose. Without hesitation, purpose is one of the most important things in life. Thus, it is fitting to want to find that purpose and pursue it as if there is no tomorrow. Life truly begins when we find that purpose. Finding our purpose makes us capable of living life with passion; it gives us the desire to wake up even when we are exhausted. It creates that burning drive in our deepest self to keep going even when going is almost impossible. It gives us our raison d’etre. My goal, your goal, your children’s goal, your friends and coworkers’ goal must be to find that purpose and follow it. Without a doubt, a purpose-driven life is a gift with which we need to grace our life, but is it the most important thing in life remains a puzzle yet to be solved?

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If we believe that God exists and has power over life, death, and our destiny, if God knows every single hair in our head, and knows our future before we were in the womb, he has to be the most important thing in life. The most important thing in life has got to be holiness. Since he is the most important, we want to be like him. “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). Holiness means to be intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally set apart for the pursuit of excellence. Unless we actively pursue such a life, life has not really begun. Once we put on that attitude, a new vision of life is created. Family, friends, money, power… are seen for what they are. Even if they are taken away, we will still have something, should I say someone, to rely on. No matter what happens, life remains meaningful. We are able to differentiate lie from truth. No existential neurosis is possible for our eyes are fixed on the proper goal and so we can scale any wall and go through any barrier. Without God as the picture, when we come to see these things for what they are and realize that we cannot cling to them, it may be too late to reach the substantial reality.

Holiness as the most important in life bails us out of this spinning torpedo. It makes us stand out. adoration With holiness, we can endure all things because we are not rooted in the ephemeral. It allows us to see this present life as the wing that carries us to what is eternal. Our inspiration comes from the one who tells that everything works for good for those who believe. If we understand God as the most important thing in life, and choose holiness for his sake, no mountains will ever be too steep to climb. He will always be there to transform the impossible to possible. He will always be a lodestar guiding us during the dark night of the soul. We will know no abandonment because it is against his nature to do so. So no crisis will be insurmountable. Living this is the most important thing in life.

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When you finally understand that holiness is the most important thing in life and embrace it with your whole essence, then you will understand that there is more to life than this. It is a waste to be caught in this corner of yours without embracing this monumental dream that God has in store for you. Embrace holiness, then you will feel like a child feels whether earthquakes, or wars are coming. You will know what it means to experience a genuine laughter. You will know what it means to feel God’s presence guiding you as if his very hands were pointing you on and his voice was whispering in your ears. You will know why some look at the sunset or stand before a painting board and weep. There is more. You are more. Choose more.

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The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage

We are living at a period in history where the sense of sacrifice is at its lowest.  Dead is the time when young men would go to the army out of a sense of love of country, justice, and peace. Forgotten is the time when God was the background of people’s acts. Now is the time of Descartes who conceived the person without a body, J. Celebrated is T. Hobbes who aimed at making science more useful to human, and Clifford who claimed that it is wrong always and everywhere to believe without evidence. We are harvesting the fruit of the Enlightenment  that rejects faith for reason;  we are living in the post-modern time, as a result, where reason is trampled underfoot. So, instinct without reason and the light of faith is now in session. This mindset invades the family, governments, every aspect of society, and the few that resist it are under fire.

These erroneous and disordered views have become the way people conceive life itself. They assume that it should always be without trials or difficulties. Marriage, which should be a lifetime commitment where a man and a woman swear to love each other in rainy as in sunny days, is baffled in the midst of this whirlwind.

My goal is to discuss the true purpose of marriage. Though marriage’s prima faciae achievement is union and procreation, I believe its deepest accomplishment lies in saving one’s partner’s soul. To save sometimes requires sacrifices. To save means the total gift of oneself to the point of dying if necessary. To save is demanding. Marriage is a beautiful commitment in which we promise that our will and desires will no longer be our own, but shared with someone else. However, it does not always go this way. Sometimes, one marries to only soon discover that the relationship sucks, or it becomes unlivable. After the honeymoon’s ecstasy is over in a few weeks or months, one can realize that it becomes dull. There is no emotional thrill in seeing the other person anymore. If anyone experiences this, he must know that he is not alone. Even saints undergo dryness at one point in their lives. Though man and woman complement each other, there will still be feeling of emptiness. That’s normal. As St Augustine said, “Lord you have made us for yourself; our heart is restless until it rests in thee” (Confessions I). The psalmist hit the same note when he proclaimed, “in God alone is my soul at rest” (Ps 62). The truth about ourselves is that we are made for infinity. Only when we work toward heaven are we truly happy and satiated. No finite things, no amount of human love can ever satisfy our yearning. No human being can fill our hunger. Know then that when, not if, faced with trials, it is God’s way to make us search for Him. Our loneliness, our encounter with a brick wall in marriage is to save our soul and/or our partner’s soul.

So when love becomes impossible, when the relationship seems to be heading toward divorce, then we need to offer it up as a sacrifice. Your sacrifice will allow you to save your partner’s soul, and your soul of course. Is there something greater than to save someone’s soul? Does Our Lord not say: there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for our friends? When marriage becomes unlivable, intensify your love of God and tell me what happens next. The greater our love for God, the greater is our capacity to love others. When our partner becomes an invalid, it is the time to increase our love of the cross. Penance, Eucharistic adoration, and scripture readings must be augmented.

It is often the case that after a young man or a woman attains the zenith of their prime and enjoy life to its fullest extent, he/she decides that it is time to get married. Those people usually are not married due to falling in love most of the time. They do so out of necessity. They simply seek a person capable of helping them to pay their rent or mortgage. They see marriage in this lens as something to ‘use’. It is those kinds of people that have recourse to divorce first when the relationship does not work out as planned. I must say it is always a bad idea to marry because one sees the other as something to be use. Marriage should happen only within the context of love. Only the bond of love, which is more stern than death, can unite two different beings. Love is not something ready-made. It requires works. It is a standard to which people must live up. They must liberate themselves from the utilitarian idea, using a person for one’s own interest, and become faithful to the principle than a human being is a phenomenon that must be treated always as an end rather than a mean.

What It Means to Be Human

The human being is the most complex and fascinating phenomenon ever created. All people of knowledge from philosophers, to scientists, sociologists etc. have attempted to come up with propositions capable of summarizing the human being. Some have provided propositions that destroy the very dignity of the human person. Others have come up with more or less acceptable view. I call their view acceptable because they have sustained the test of time and debates in the philosophical arena.
Here, I want to consider Aristotle’s view of the human person, which deals with basics of what a human being is, but lacks what makes us great; and I want to express one of the elements that make us stand apart from all other beings.
In the De Anima, Aristotle argues that the human person is a composite of body and soul. For him, the body cannot be separated from the soul in the same way form cannot be separated from matter. The soul, as he conceives it, is the substantial form of the body; by this, he means that it needs the body for its subsistence, but it is not a body. It is what makes a human being a human being in the same way the ability to cut is what makes an axe an axe, sight is what makes an eye an eye, so the soul is makes a human being what he/she is.
It is noteworthy to mention that the telos of Aristotle in studying the soul is not because he believes that it has some value beyond this life; he is studying it because he believes that it is something fascinating as any philosophical concept. Knowing what something is tells us what it can do. As a result, he defines it as the first actuality of a natural body that potentially has life.
Due to this understanding, he maintains that anything that has life has also a soul. So plants have nutritive soul- meaning the can take in food and so grow; animals have perceptive/sensitive soul, which means that they can do what plants do, and they can also sense and reproduce. Human beings, according to his view, have a rational/intellective soul which is unique to them. Humans have the capacity to do what both plants and animals do, but more importantly, he/she has the capacity to reason. Due to that capacity, human can strive toward a higher telos (end).
How does the body communicate with each other as we observe it? Unlike most thinkers, Aristotle differs between the mind and the soul. The mind is part of the body and so is a physical thing while the soul is an immaterial, non spatial thing that acts in a physical thing (the mind). So the soul interacts with the body by means of the mind. The soul acts on the mind which acts on the body, but it is unaffected by it and has nothing in common with the body. So when the body is deteriorated, the soul remains intact. The soul never gets tired doing what it does. If the mind can be weary thinking, if the body gets tired daily, the soul can never be tired exercising its activity.
A concept that Aristotle was probably never interested in, but which interests me greatly, is that the human person originates from love, by means of love, to become love, and ultimately return to love. As such, he is the only being capable of selflessly giving himself as a gift of love. Actually, love is the only requirement that a person asks of others. We are just to a person if we love him/her. This is true for God as well as human. Love, for a person, excludes the idea that he/she is being treated as object of pleasure. Here, I think Kant would strongly agree with me since he maintains that a person must always be treated as an end in his Categorical Imperative.
Thus, the way we manifest our humanity, the way we echo our identity is when we let love blossom selflessly. It’s in selfless love that we become fully human. As a consequence of this behavior and understanding, before we do anything, we must always question whether or not that elevates the human person to love more deeply and so allows him/her to flourish as a person of dignity. Moreover, the capacity to offer ourselves as a gift of love when we fully know what that involves is a testimony that we are unique and was intentionally given that capacity. It is a witness that we were created as an intrinsic end for a particular purpose. As a result, we must live in a way that bears witness to that. We are truly human when we avoid engaging in what compromises the purpose for which we were made.
So to be human means to be constantly giving ourselves as a selfless gift. In fact, every move we make in life, our cravings, restless effort to succeed, search for friendship, bonding, conviviality, and striving to know the truth and the good are done for the sake of love. Entrust your self to selfless love so we can attain the depth of human existence. Know this. That love you are seeking, the love you have a right to enjoy and should selflessly die for has a name and a face— Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross to give meaning to your life and purpose to your endeavors.

The Important of Teleological Thinking

There was a time in the history of the Western world, no one would do, think, act on anything without considering the purpose and end for which he is doing, acting, thinking that way. There were a time people thought in term of end and purpose. They did not do something because they have the capacity and means to do. They did something because they wanted to accomplish something that elevates the human person to a more flourishing state. So, their thinking was not simply people oriented, it was specifically human dignity oriented. At that period, leaders and thinkers could see a little further than their own toes. Their needs were not put before the human race’s needs. Scientists and philosophers of old would not do something merely because it brings pleasure to people. However, since Descartes came up with his method in the 16th century, conceiving actions in term of end and purpose have been going downhill. Scientists and politicians do and say things because they want to fulfill their own selfish interest, be it fame, wealth and power. They no longer conceive things in term of Aristotle’s four causes. The point I want to stress here is that without those four causes, especially the last one, we cannot be anything but a boat on the deep sea without a captain. In this imbroglio, we are nothing but sheep without a shepherd, or wayfarer without a destination.

What are Aristotle’s four causes and do they make sense? The first of the four causes are the Material cause: “that from which a thing comes to be. Material cause is the raw material (matter) out of which something is made. For instance, in the case of human being, our material cause is body. In the case of a table, it is wood. The second of the four causes is the Formal cause is the form i.e. that which makes matter a particular type of thing. What allows us to recognize something as a particular type. In our case, our soul is considered the formal cause. For a table, it is its shape (eidos). What allows us to recognize human beings as human being is because they possess a soul. The soul allows us to look a certain way (upright posture), and act a certain way. The formal cause is what allows us t distinguish a table from a chair though they are both made of woods. We recognize and are able to identify a table because of its shape—its formal cause. The third cause is the Efficient cause. It is what initiates something, or what brings it into existence, or as Aristotle put it, efficient cause is the source of the primary principle of change or stability. An artist who creates a piece of art is the efficient cause of that piece of art. The person who comes up with the idea of a great business plan is the efficient cause of that business. And the fourth cause is the Final cause. It is the end, the purpose (telos) for which something is made. The final cause allows us to ask ‘what something is for’. What we considered at this stage is the ‘why’ of a thing. What is the why of a table? What is the why of a human being? What is the why of the universe? This can be asked about anything.

Now what interests me and the reason why I am writing this article is because our culture, apart from some Christian’s groups, completely rejects this way of thinking. As a result, we are having all the confusions we currently have in our conception of arts, ethics, traditional understanding of marriage, friendship etc. As soon as we return to this way of thinking, all our confusions and unending arguing everything would make sense. Sadly, not knowing the ultimate why of something does not hamper us from doing the thing, but deep down something fundamental is lacking. For example, even though I may not know what I want to accomplish in writing this article, I can still write an awesome article that speaks to many. It may happen that this article helps someone to see the light, but the disaster it causes later may surpass the few people it reaches. Its disastrous consequence may outdo any good help it may bring. Now someone may say that I could never predict all the consequence of an action, be it an article, a scientific discovery, or a sentence I utter. I agree. Our limited mind can never see all the consequences of an action. However, some of the consequences are so evident, no one can say they could not see them coming.

Thinking teleologically gives shape, meaning, and direction to a story, be it our story, an imaginary story written in a book, or a story heard on the radio or TV. If we turn on the TV for the 5pm news and find a reporter explaining something, would we get the point he is making without knowing why he is telling the story. Had Dante not understood ‘why’ Virgil wanted to take him through hell, purgatory, and heaven, would he actually trust him through these scary roads? Had M. L. King, M. Ghandi not clearly defined their purpose during their respectives civil right movement, would they have accomplished anything? If a business owner does not define his long and short term goals, could he really prevail in this competitive market? Goal/purpose/end defines the direction we go. We don’t go to Europe by going through the North Pole, or the Bermuda triangle. Ask C Columbus, he will tell you that if one wants to reach India, they have a specific direction they need to follow otherwise that person will end up in the Americas. Our society has lost its sense of purpose. As a result, relativism and terrorism rule. It is purpose that helps people to flourish or accomplish ultimate happiness, or leads them closer to the true, the good, and the beautiful. Nothing should be done because we have the capacity to do it. This has been the failure of most scientists in the last century. They believe because they can do something, they must do it. Something should be pursued only if it helps human beings to be more human. Otherwise, it should be abandoned even if we have the means to do.

Do you think our (governments and churches’) plans include elevating the human person to a higher standard of being human?