Resignation and Revolt: An Essay on Existential Engagement

  • SumoMe

Lately, I’ve been really into theology as I’ve sought to reexamine my own faith in an attempt to reconcile it with the reality of the way the world presents itself to me. Initially, I had planned to write a book on theology. As I started writing, though, I realized that I still needed much more time and experience in the subject before I could write something with which I could be satisfied.

The introduction, however, came out effortlessly. I have been studying existentialism for quite some time and have mulled over its ideas in connection with God and religion again and again. So, I’ve decided to put off the book on theology. But, since I had already cranked out this introduction, I figured I’d just share it as an essay here on my blog. (Okay, fine, it’s not an essay; it’s a blog post. But, give me a break, I’m trying to sound important). After all, what is this blog for if I’m not using it? So, without further ado, here’s the existential essay that I’ve called, Resignation and Revolt.

Why Bother?

Why bother? In my view, there is no more important question worth asking. The closer we get to unraveling the mysteries of the universe, the further we seem to be from unraveling the mysteries of ourselves. The sheer vastness of the reality that we’ve uncovered through our quest for knowledge only serves to further call into question the significance of the individual’s existence. More than ever, we are aware of our insignificance. And yet, we are still not content with it.

When we ask, “what is the meaning of life?” We’re really asking, “what is the meaning of my life?” Does my life have purpose? Is there a point to my living it? Why am I here? Why do I exist? This question plagues us more than any other. It plagues us in a way that (as far as we can tell) it doesn’t plague a rock or a tree or a squirrel or a river–or any of the other things which we understand to exist in our mutual reality. All of the entities that exist in reality do so without any apparent pre-defined reason. Existence happens to all of us, and it is humans beings alone who feel the need to make sense of it. “Men and women, unlike members of any other species,” writes Gordon Kauffman, “have from early on asked about human life itself: What is the meaning of human existence? What sort of beings are we humans? What are we here for?” (1)

When we really think about it, though, the question beneath the question is this: why do we care? Why does it matter to us why we’re here? What is it that compels us to ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?” Why bother with, “why bother?” I think that perhaps the answer is in the question. We are different from all of the other objects in our reality, precisely because we care about what happens to us. We are concerned with the meaning of events in our lives like no other entities. In short, the human condition is this: we exist, and we are aware of that existence.

Why we have this awareness surely is a puzzle, but it isn’t really the one we’re interested in solving. It’s what we do with this awareness that matters to us. Given that we’re stuck with this capacity for questioning our existence, how do we cope? In other words, questioning the meaning of our lives isn’t merely an intellectual exercise. Rather, it’s a practical matter. We want to know why we’re here so that we can understand how we should live. When we come face-to-face with the awareness of our apparent meaningless existence, how should we respond?

In this essay, I would like to develop a model for how we cope with our awareness as human beings. But before I get to that, I want to reframe this question of existence in a way that I think will make more sense to our lived experience in the world. And, to do that, we need to talk about suffering…

The Pascho and the Human Condition

When we think of the word, “suffering,” we often think of it within the context of pain. For example, at the passing of a loved one, we might ask, “Did she suffer?” What we really want to know is, “did she experience pain?” While pain is certainly often a component of the kind of suffering to which I’m referring, that is not fundamentally what I mean when I use the word, “suffering.” When I say “suffer,” I mean, “undergo” or “experience.” We use the term in this way in such expressions as, “suffer the consequences.” While pain may be involved in such a context, the real meaning of the phrase is that we are “dealing with” the consequences. Etymologically, this more fundamental sense is the root of the word, “suffer.”

The English word “suffer” originates in the 13th century with the meaning “allow to occur or continue, permit, tolerate, fail to prevent or suppress,” or “to be made to undergo, endure, be subjected to.” This word is derived from the Old French verb sofrir, meaning “bear, endure, resist; permit, tolerate, allow.” And ultimately the term finds its base in the Latin sufferre, meaning “to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under” (2).

In the New Testament, there is a Greek term used that carries this very same meaning. Transliterated “Pascho,” this Biblical suffering means, “to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a sensible experience, to undergo” (3). It is used in many different contexts, most including some sort of painful experience but all including the endurance of an experience. Jesus says of himself “the Son of Man must suffer many things” (4). When bitten by a viper, Luke writes that Paul “suffered no harm” (5). Reminding Christians of their impending redemption, Peter writes that a restoration will come “after you have suffered a little while” (6).

I think this sort of suffering, this Pascho, is the perfect expression of the human condition. To exist is to suffer. That is, to exist is to endure, bear up under, and deal with the reality in which we find ourselves. This sort of suffering is unavoidable. It is the very context in which we live. As soon as we become aware of our existence we must, one way or another, deal with it. It is our burden to bear, the fate we must all suffer. The Pascho is the human condition.

Of course, I did not invent this concept. “The Pascho” is the term I am using, but many others have been proposed. Since the nineteenth century, existentialists have given this fundamental predicament of the human experience many names. Martin Heidegger is often referenced for his concept of “thrownness,” the notion that we as human beings simply find ourselves “thrown into” the world, without any clue as to why we’re here. Albert Camus popularized the notion of the absurd–the strange sensation “born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world” (7). Some existentialists have referred to this fundamental starting point of the human condition as facticity. John Macquarrie explains the concept as “the inward, existential awareness of one’s own being as a fact to be accepted. No one has chosen to be.” He continues, “He simply finds himself in existence. We discover ourselves, so to speak, as free existents in the midst of a world of things. We did not put ourselves in that world. There is almost surprise, even shock, that we find ourselves there as a fact to be reckoned with” (8).

The Pascho is the thrownness, the absurd, the experience of ourselves as “facts to be reckoned with.” The Pascho is our starting point. We begin by trying to sort out the hand we’ve been dealt. We are born into context. Before we can decide our fate, it is decided for us. Before we can act, we are acted upon. Consider how Macquarrie defines suffering:

“What is Suffering? It is the opposite of action. In action I exercise my freedom and initiate a chain of events that are designed to bring about some state of affairs which I desire. In suffering, on the other hand, something happens to me. A chain of events has been initiated outside of my control, these events impinge upon me and involve me, and they move towards a state of affairs which I do not desire. In my freedom, I act to attain an end on which I have set my mind; in my suffering, I am driven about by external forces not subject to my choice or control. When the opposition between action and suffering is put in this stark fashion we can see how suffering puts a question mark against any attempt to make sense of human life” (9).

Perhaps there is no greater illustration of the Pascho than that which is found within the Hebrew story of Job. Job is a prosperous man of integrity who, for no apparent reason, suddenly loses everything. All at once, his possessions are destroyed, his children are killed, and his health deteriorates as he’s stricken with a painful infection. A group of friends from out of town come to mourn with him and end up accusing him of having done something to deserve his misfortune. Why would he be suffering so severely if he hadn’t angered God in some way? As far as Job is concerned, though, he’s innocent. He has no idea why all of this is happening to him, but he knows it isn’t his fault.

The reader of the story, however, is privy to what’s happening behind the scenes. God brags about Job to Satan, and Satan argues that Job is only good because of how much God has blessed him. To prove him wrong, God ultimately allows Satan to torment Job in any way he sees fit. So, no, Job isn’t being punished for some wrongdoing. He’s being tested. Job is the Guinea pig in a cosmic social experiment. But here’s the crucial point: Job doesn’t know. He’s ignorant to the divine purpose of his suffering; all he knows is that he suffers.

Like Job, we have no idea why the events in our lives have fallen together in such a way as to produce the context in which we live. That knowledge is beyond us–somewhere behind the scenes. We try to come up with explanations–maybe it’s chance, maybe it’s God, maybe it’s something else. But the truth is that ultimate reality is hidden from us. We are all groping about in the dark. All we know is our experience. All we know is the world we inhabit. All we know is the Pascho.

“Why is light given to him who suffers,” asks Job when he finally opens his mouth to comment on his calamity, “and life to the bitter of soul?” (10) Job is asking the same question that we’ve been asking. What good is awareness of our existence if this awareness only reveals the meaninglessness of that existence? In light of our suffering, what’s the point? Why bother?

It is at the moment that we come face to face with this fundamental question that we begin to search for ways around it. The question of why we exist is inextricably linked to how we should live. The question of why we suffer is inextricably linked to how we can deal with that suffering. It is at this point that I proceed to propose a framework for how I believe we as human beings go about grappling with the human predicament. I’ll now discuss the paths of resignation and revolt.

Resignation and Revolt

My intention here is to develop a model of the various ways in which we respond to the Pascho. How do we grapple with the fundamental, apparent meaninglessness of the world in which we live? Here again, I believe the answer is in the question. When we ask how we go about dealing with our human condition, there are two intrinsic ideas within our inquiry: 1) that we have the ability to acknowledge our human condition, and 2) that we have the ability to respond to our human condition. I call these two truths regarding our orientation to the Pascho, “resignation” and “revolt.”

Resignation means we consciously recognize the fundamental meaninglessness of our existence. It means we come to terms with the Pascho. It may initially come as a moment of awakening, an epiphany of sorts that opens our eyes to the raw, empty reality of our being in the world. But we may periodically drift in and out of this state of resignation, at once resigned to a meaningless fate and at once blind to it. But I would venture that the mere possibility of resignation is what makes us human. Resignation is self-awareness, the ability to become conscious of ourselves as not only objects but also as subjects interacting in a world of objects.

Revolt means we go on living in the world in spite of our acknowledgement of the futility of such a life. It means that, in some way, we push back against the Pascho. Revolt is the decision to orient ourselves toward possibility rather than toward reality. Like resignation, revolt is not a fixed orientation. Rather, we oscillate between the embracing of choice and responsibility and the shrugging of our shoulders in deference to the vanity of such endeavors. While resignation is what makes us human, revolt is what makes us truly alive. It saves us from languishing in our futility and urges us to find or create a meaningful life in a meaningless world.

Although I believe that there are two modes of existence in resignation and revolt, I do not think they are mutually exclusive. As I mentioned, we all tend to oscillate between low and high levels of both resignation and revolt. There are times in our lives in which we despair over the Pascho, times in our lives in which we are oblivious to it, and times in our lives in which we actively resist it. Depending on whether we are high or low on resignation and revolt at any given point of our lives, I think there are four states of being in which we can find ourselves. Let’s discuss each of these in turn.

Disinterest: Low Resignation, Low Revolt

The first state of being, the one that seems to come most naturally to us, is what I call disinterest. This is the state of being in which we are unaware of the Pascho. We haven’t really considered the meaninglessness of life or come to terms with its absurdity. We simply go about living our lives without questioning the point of it all. I would say that most of us, even if we have gone beyond this state at some point in our lives, spend most of our time in this state of being. It is quite difficult to carry on with a normal life without doing so.

That being said, there is danger in a disinterested state of being–apart from its existential dishonesty. First, there is the toll it takes on our souls when we ignore that nagging question of why we’re doing what we doing. We experience times in our lives in which we feel as if we’re merely “going through the motions.” Of course, most of the time we’re perfectly content with the ordinary standard procedure of everyday life. But, on occasion, we have moments in which can’t help but wonder what the use of such activity is. The longer we push off these questions, the heavier they tend to weigh on our souls.

In addition to the latent, unresolved anxiety that builds up within us when we ignore the Pascho, disinterest may also have social and moral ramifications. Failing to grapple with the meaning of life is often linked to the failure to develop a passion for life. And, inevitably, this indifference leads to the utter disregard of social injustices. When we cannot see our own suffering, we do not have eyes to recognize the suffering of others. Consider the words of Elizabeth Johnson (11):

“Attending to material satisfactions in a consumer society, people tend to think that anything painful needs to be expelled. When suffering does arrive at their doorstep, they do not know how to achieve meaning. To forestall this pain and panic, they insulate themselves with banal activities instead of risking a life rich in engagement with its mourning and consolation. As for those who suffer beyond their immediate circle, people wrap themselves in their own world and look right through, around, beyond the torment of others, showing an inability to suffer even in the cause of aiding those being afflicted. The result of this avoidance, especially clear in young people, is boredom, stagnation, inability to experience intense joy–in a word, apathy.”

Despair: High Resignation, Low Revolt

The second state of being is what I call despair. It is represented by the periods of our lives in which we are most distraught over our predicament. Rather than ignoring the Pascho, we see it with clarity…and then we go on to reason that there is no way out of it. We don’t see the point of living, and our thoughts turn dark. We consider taking our lives. Suicide, while generally deemed an irrational action of the mentally disturbed, is in actuality a perfectly rational act in light of the absurdity of life. If there is no reason to exist, then there is no reason to prolong our existence. Perhaps no one has put it better than Albert Camus (12):

“…killing yourself amounts to confessing. It is confessing that life is too much for you or that you do not understand it…It is merely confessing that that “is not worth the trouble.” Living, naturally, is never easy. You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering.”

This state of being is akin to the Kierkegaardian “sickness unto death” and the “nausea” of Jean-Paul Sartre. It is the painful recognition of our futility. If we never enter this state, we live our lives in ignorance to the Pascho. If we dwell in it for too long, however, it becomes a poison that consumes us. For those who take their own lives in such despair, every other state of being becomes henceforth unavailable to them. For most people, though, the despair is only temporary. We human beings are resilient. We quickly “snap out of it” and begin devising methods of resolving the anxiety.

Delusion: Low Resignation, High Revolt

The third state of being, which I call delusion, consists of living with passionate engagement but without acknowledgement of the Pascho. This state of being may come at a time in one’s life after realization of the Pascho and may be a mere forgetting of the human predicament. Or, we could bypass the Pascho altogether and go straight to an assumed meaningfulness in our lives without any attention paid to the more dismal reality. Delusion is characterized by enthusiasm for and devotion to any number of purposes in life. It can be found in religious fanaticism, political ideology, or even in the new scientific utopianism that clings to the illusion of the perfect future crafted by the scientific method. The content of delusion varies, but it is in every case driven by an unquestioned commitment to an ideal.

George Orwell created the perfect example of delusion in his character Boxer, an anthropomorphic horse that works hard for his overlords day in and day out with complete confidence in their promise that his efforts will be rewarded with a beautiful pasture at the end of his days. Toward the end of his life, when he has outlived his usefulness, he is hauled away in a truck that he believes is taking him to his glorious pasture. It is only through the eyes of another character that we realize Boxer is actually being taken away to a glue factory. Boxer is the embodiment of the delusional state of being (13).

The existentialists give other names to this state of being. Sartre talks about us getting swept up into our roles as “bad faith” (14). Nietzsche, in reference to what he believes to be the blind faith of Christianity, calls this state of being a “suicide of reason” (15). Similarly, Camus calls the embracing of illusion in the face of absurdity “philosophical suicide” (16).

All of these writers and more point to the delusional state of being as something to be avoided. I don’t wish to be quite so judgmental. Sometimes, we need our comforting escapes from the harsh realities of life. And perhaps it is better to be swept away blindly by an arbitrary cause in which are passionately engaged than it is to wallow in the pit of despair until we die from the hopelessness of our situation. Nevertheless, there are clear downsides to delusion. And, akin to the disinterested state of being, these downsides have both a personal and a social element.

First, delusion can be harmful to us as individuals because it can keep us from becoming our fullest and truest selves. When we pledge allegiance to our causes, they imprison us. In our enthusiasm, we draw lines for ourselves that keep us from learning, growing, and becoming something more. Blind, unquestioned faith in our purpose stifles our ability to develop that purpose into something more well-rounded and admirable. Moreover, the less we question what it is we believe the more we are likely to end up becoming blindsided by a fate much less than we expect. If we never question the concept of the pasture, we may very well end up at the glue factory.

Perhaps more pressing for human existence, and the world in which it finds its place, are the social ramifications of delusion. Blind allegiance is the root of fundamentalism, intolerance, oppression, exploitation, genocide, environmental degradation, and many other such evils produced within human interactions. We commit atrocities in the name of our causes and we justify the cruelty with the enthusiasm of our convictions. We destroy each other…and we destroy our world. In many cases, the very existence of the earth hangs in the balance when we embrace the delusional state of being. This happens in smaller, more gradual ways such as deforestation and global warming. But there is also the continual threat of an impending global annihilation through a nuclear holocaust. We have the capacity to utterly and completely destroy ourselves and, if we ever reach that point, it will likely occur in a delusional state of being.

Desire: High Resignation, High Revolt

The last state of being, while perhaps the most elusive to human existence, is I would argue the most beneficial for human existence–the state of desire. This ideal state of being consists of the simultaneous acknowledgement of the Pascho and the hope that there exists some greater reality beyond it. When in this state, we recognize the apparent futility of life. However, we possess neither the bitter discontent of despair nor the reckless certitude of delusion. We know full well the absurdity of the human predicament, but we strive toward a situation that transcends it. In this state, we have access to both the lucidity of admitting to the reality in which we live and the passion for seeking a more fulfilling form of being.

The Pascho brings about a dilemma for human existence: should we accept our meaninglessness and wither away in the futility of it, or should we rebel against it and seek to make some sense out of it? John Macquarrie writes:

“Either we acknowledge the absurdity of a situation in which we find ourselves responsible for an existence which we lack the capacity to master, and have just to make the best of a bad job; or else we look for a further dimension in the situation, a depth beyond both man and nature that is open to us in such a way that it can make sense of our finite existence by supporting it and bringing order and fulfillment to it” (17).

John Macquarrie Quote a further dimension

The upside of desire is quite obvious: it grants us hope. When we reach a point of resignation (the recognition of the Pascho), we have two options: despair or hope, inevitability or possibility, death or life. Faced with these two options, the more fulfilling path is clearly the path that offers a way to overcome our predicament. Desire recognizes the absurdity of existence, but it simply refuses to stop there. This state of being propels us to reach for something beyond the Pascho and to become the higher form of being that can grasp that transcendent reality.

In addition to the benefits reaped by the individual from living in a state of desire, there are also profound social benefits. The impact on human civilization and the world it inhabits is precisely the opposite of the state of delusion. When we live in hope and expectation of a greater form of being, while at the same time remaining grounded in the reality of our fragility, we naturally become more tolerant, empathetic, respectful, and responsible. In recognizing our limits, we resist becoming arrogant and unyielding in our convictions. However, in our quest for a more meaningful existence, we can also resist the forms of apathy that can lead to devastating neglect of the world in which we live.

If there is a downside to the state of being which I call “desire,” it is that it quite possibly doesn’t exist. I have to admit that it would be a fair criticism to suggest that it is in actuality a form of delusion. Many of the atheistic existentialists have scoffed at the notion of hope and see it as nothing distinct from the blind faith I described in the state of delusion. “I cannot conceive,” writes Camus, “that a skeptical metaphysics can be joined to an ethics of renunciation” (18). In other words, you can’t cling to the hope of something more while remaining grounded in what is. You’re either honest or delusional–and there is no middle ground. And yet still, Camus argues that we shouldn’t end our existence in suicide. Rather, the only intellectually honest thing to do is to “drain everything to the bitter end” and “die unreconciled.”

While it may indeed be the case that desire is merely a sugar-coated form of delusion, I think that Camus’ approach of conscious revolt without expectation of fulfillment is actually quite impossible. I cannot see how we can go on living while simultaneously denying even the possibility of a reason for existence. What Camus and other anti-religious thinkers in his camp are proposing is also another form of delusion. Without the hope of something beyond the Pascho, there is no faith but bad faith–no revolt but self-deception.

Leonard Swindler writes: “Even those stalwart philosophers of existentialist thought who spoke of the absurdity of life, in the end urged human beings to give life meaning themselves, claiming that such meaning cannot come from the outside but only from within” (19). But, we must ask ourselves which perspective is more akin to delusion–the perspective that there might be some purpose beyond us that we have yet to reach or the perspective that there is no purpose beyond us but that we can “invent” one that satisfies our need for ultimate meaning? I would argue that the purpose we invent is a greater self-deception than the purpose we seek; for, in the former, we know for sure that we are fooling ourselves while, in the latter, there is at least a slight possibility that we are actually onto something real.

If there is even the smallest possibility to live in both resignation and revolt, we need to attempt to do so. The state of desire is the only thing that can both liberate us from the prison that is the human predicament and, at the same time, keep us firmly grounded within it. We cannot escape the Pascho. It is our burden to bear, our fate to suffer, the very context in which we exist. But neither can we be content with it–we must continue our search for something beyond. This, I believe, is the state of being for which we should continually strive to inhabit.

Sisyphus, the Pascho, and Hope

“From the moment absurdity is recognized,” writes Camus, “it becomes a passion, the most harrowing of all. But whether or not one can live with one’s passions, whether or not one can live with their law, which is to burn the heart they simultaneously exalt–that is the whole question” (20). This question is the same as that with which we began: “why bother?” Once we have acknowledged the meaningless happenstance of our existence (resignation), is it possible for us to go on living (revolt)? And, can we do so without losing our awareness of our inherent meaninglessness. For Camus, yes, we can.

The image Camus uses to argue his case is, in my view, the most profound expression of resignation of and revolt against the Pascho that has ever been written. According to the legend of Sisyphus, the character is condemned to roll a rock up a hill, watch it roll back down again, and then roll it back up again for all eternity. In Camus’ interpretation, Sisyphus is representative of the human being facing the absurdity of existence. As the “tragic hero,” Sisyphus embraces his fate and continues to perform the labor without any hope of ever finding meaning in it. For Camus, the fate itself is the meaning–the rock is an end in itself. “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart” (21).

I find the Sisyphusian framework extremely helpful in understanding the context for the human predicament. But, as I’ve mentioned, I do not find Camus’ Sisyphus credible. His heroic embracing of his labor is more the work of a god than of a man. If Sisyphus is to be representative of human beings, we need to yet again “breathe life into” (22) the myth. When condemned to his fate, Sisyphus in actuality goes through a number of stages touching on each of the states of being we’ve described.

As with the rest of humanity, Sisyphus commences his grappling with the Pascho by moving from a state of low resignation to a state of high resignation. First, Sisyphus is simply unaware of his predicament. He begins in a state of disinterest. He continues rolling his rock, surely enough, but he never come to terms with the futility of his fate. He simply plods along, assuming that all is as it should be and sees no reason to question his labor.

Then, perhaps in a moment of crisis, Sisyphus comes face-to-face with the absurdity of his fate. Sisyphus becomes poignantly aware of the Pascho. For a moment, he fails into a state of despair. He loathes his life and the futile labor which encompasses it. He echoes the words of the Preacher, “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind” (23). For a moment, he contemplates letting the rock roll down on top of him, crushing him and freeing him from his miserable lot.

In desperation, and to keep himself among the living, Sisyphus moves into a state of delusion. Shrugging off his suicidal rumination, he becomes suddenly convinced that there is after all meaning in his labor. Perhaps the rock is a tool for smoothing the mountainside so that water can flow down more quickly, giving life to the land below. Or perhaps there is a limit to the number of times the rock must be rolled at which point a paradise will opened up to him. Whatever story Sisyphus lands upon, he becomes entirely convinced in his heart that it’s true and cannot conceivably be any other way. In this movement, Sisyphus steps into the mode of revolt–but he does so at the expense of leaving his resignation behind.

Finally, Sisyphus discovers his self-deception. Perhaps he smooths out all the bumps of the mountainside and still sees no water flowing down. Perhaps he rolls the rock so many times that it wears down on his convictions. Whatever the case may be, Sisyphus soon realizes that the ultimate meaning of his life–if there is one–cannot be so simple as the one he had decided upon. Moving back into resignation but still clinging to the hope that there is a transcendent meaning he has yet to find, Sisyphus moves into a state of desire. Here, he can be honest with himself and his predicament. Here, he can see that his labors have no inherent meaning and still cling to the hope that he may someday discover a higher and more fulfilling reality beyond them.

Of course, Sisyphus doesn’t stay perpetually in a state of desire once he arrives there. In reality, he floats periodically across the poles of resignation and revolt and between the states of disinterest, despair, delusion, and desire. But, ultimately, the state for which he strives is that of desire. Because he knows that is the only state that can give him genuine satisfaction, if indeed there is any to be had.

It is in the state of desire that religion first appears. Of course, throughout the natural course of development within religious traditions, religious thinking tends to shift from desire to delusion. Many of the actions characterized most strongly by the state of being which I’ve called delusion have been carried out in the name of religion. Nevertheless, religion is at least initially founded upon the yearning for something more beyond the human predicament.

The human quest for meaning is, I believe, the context in which religion is born. Although I don’t think religion is the only possible avenue for the state of desire described above, I certainly think it is the most common and perhaps the most fulfilling. “Religions begin with assumption that the world as we experience it is not ideal,” says Charles Kimball. “Something is dreadfully wrong. And the religion will identify and address that which is wrong, or the fundamental human predicament that hinders or blocks people from realizing the desired goal or in some cases goals” (24).

If we as human beings are to find meaning and fulfillment in our existence, we must continually seek that which we do not possess. While remaining anchored in reality, we must yearn for the transcendent. I do not believe that hope is the escapist crutch we’ve been told that it is. Hope is not weak; it is strong. Hope is, in the words of Wolfhart Pannenberg, “the courage to accept the conditions of one’s own existence in the light of one’s knowledge of man’s true destiny, and to accept these conditions as something that must be overcome” (25). In a world devoid of express meaning, hope is all we have.  Hope is our salvation. Hope, it can be said, is our only hope.


  1. In Face of Mystery, p. 106.
  2. Etymology Online, retrieved March 30, 2016 from
  3. Bible Study Tools, retrieved March 30, 2016 from
  4. Luke 9:22, NASB.
  5. Acts 28:5, NASB.
  6. 1 Peter 5:10, NASB.
  7. The Myth of Sisyphus, p. 21.
  8. Existentialism, p. 148.
  9. In Search of Humanity, pp. 223-224.
  10. Job 3:21, NASB.
  11. Quest for the Living God, p. 55.
  12. The Myth of Sisyphus, pp. 5-6.
  13. Animal Farm.
  14. Basic Writings of Sartre, p. 219.
  15. Basic Writings of Nietzsche, p. 250.
  16. The Myth of Sisyphus, p. 41.
  17. Principles of Christian Theology, p. 73.
  18. The Myth of Sisyphus, p. 55.
  19. The Meaning of Life at the Edge of the Third Millennium, p. 2.
  20. The Myth of Sisyphus, p. 22.
  21. The Myth of Sisyphus, p. 123.
  22. The Myth of Sisyphus, p. 120.
  23. Ecclesiastes 2:17, NASB.
  24. Comparative Religion, 16A.
  25. What is Man? p. 67.