Miroslav Volf on the paradox of our enjoyment – or not – of the good things in life.
Yeah, a lot of very good things in life can easily become disappointments. And they become disappointments if they don’t add up to something, that if they … to use again the phrase, if they don’t have kind of a weight, if they don’t have a meaning, if they are kind of these self-enclosed things that are supposed to be meaningful in and of themselves and yet they are not.
I think part of the kind of drive in consumer societies for ever new shimmering things that we need to buy in order to kind of feel somehow good about ourselves and be satisfied with ourselves – this whole industry of desire that has been directed toward always new things – is in part [the] result of the sense of insufficiency of staying with just the ordinary things. It’s not so much simply that it is a drive for better things – and obviously nobody is here an enemy of improvements, I mean I use, right now, iPhone 5, I will use a 6 or 7, whichever comes, that’s not the issue. It’s the issue of how does our desire function with regard to this.
And my deep concern is to kind of to not so much to tame the desire, but to give it a kind of full shape, so to speak. To honour the desire, to be able to stay with the desire, and with its satisfaction without [the] satisfaction of desire immediately creating its own dissatisfactions. And I think that if one understands … in Christian terms, if one understands the entirety of the created order, created as a gift from God; if one understands individual things in our lives as gifts from God, I think that opens up a possibility of greater enjoyment because things are then not satisfying qua things simply, they are satisfying as mediums, as tools or as ways in which the presence of another is with us. We enjoy things the most when we enjoy things as mediating to us [the] presence of other people and also [the] presence of transcendence. And you can then unify transcendent meaning and ordinary enjoyments of life.