Inquire, Inquire Part 6 – 5779
How does religion respond to a personal feeling of ennui in one’s life?
Is religion able to provide an adequate response to every individual?
Abraham Heschel, the Jewish philosopher, who wrote G-d in Search of Man, indicates that in order to define a problem that is common to mankind, it is necessary to look at the situation (ch. 1 Self-understanding of Judaism: situational thinking). I believe that this statement implies that reflecting on one’s personal situation is required. It is not enough to know, for myself, that ennui is a state of mind that many, other than myself have experienced. Any search must begin within the parameters of my own religious belief and practice. The answer to the problem must be practical enough within my own sphere of understanding, so that I can take the remedy, without falling prey to the inevitable intellectualization that a more objective approach could take.
Therefore, my response to the problem would be subjective, as is any philosophical pursuit, despite the goal to find universal meaning. Perhaps, if I stumble upon a meaningful point in my reverie, of value to others, than I am able to add to the greater collective of understanding. Yet, I would not claim to have discovered a truth, rather, only revealed a truth that already existed. Additionally, my own search for truth is relegated to a religious worldview; I am not particularly inclined to think that a meaningful truth outside of that realm would be substantial enough for me. Therefore, to regard ennui as disconnected from religion would be a false start for me on the road to comprehension.
Rather, my first thought is that only G-d can fill the void within man (universal assumption, sorry); so, it would follow that any dissatisfaction with what the world has to offer should reasonably lead to a search that transcends this world. Instead of ennui ultimately leading to a rejection of this world as meaningless, as contended by some strands of philosophy, we should only be compelled to cast our eyes Above. Ennui must be transcended by finding lasting value in an absolute good. I believe that constant can only be found within the depths of my belief in G-d. He was, He is, and He always will be. Moreover, He is not only transcendent, He is immanent. Therefore, He may be sought out, and provide comfort in a spiritual sense, even though He is in Shomayim (Heaven). His presence may also be found amidst our daily lives on earth.