Desperation

In his first essay, “Economy”, from Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau said “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” (1854) So what does desperation mean? What about those who have clearly identified their God-given gifts (where else could they come from?) and have found the niche to enable appropriate use of these gifts, thus establishing a satisfying life for both the gifted and those who are recipients of these gifts. End of story? Not by a long shot. What about the rest of us? You know, the ones who are good at a few things but don’t seem to focus too well. Or can’t give up two or three of their efforts to choose one abandoning all else. Would it be abandonment? Would those gifts go unused? And what about what C. S. Lewis said nearly 100 years later in Mere Christianity: “God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.” (1952) Some atheists may disagree, saying they evolved from that speck of dust, or this piece of seaweed. But even that speck of dust, that piece of seaweed came from Someone. Nothing just happens. So is desperation emptiness? Is it a running away from something? or a frantic running toward something? A constant seeking, never finding, or just the fear of never finding? Or is it just plain fear?

2 thoughts on “Desperation

  1. Thoreau said ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation’. And then you asked, ‘What about those who have clearly identified their God-given gifts (where else could they come from?) and have found the niche to enable appropriate use of these gifts?’ Well those are not the mass of men. Those are a very lucky few. Realizing truly that the gifts we have are a gift of god, is an accomplishment. And often we are given poor advice about how to use those gifts, or are tempted to test them as if they were toys in our hands. What a blessing it is if we reach the needed understanding to find home in the niche where we are able to appropriately use those gifts,

    • That is very true. sometimes we are our own saboteurs where those gifts are concerned. I think Buechner said joy is found where our gifts meet humanity’s need. Or something like that.

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