There are two kinds of discontent.  If we endlessly desire material things, even though we have enough, this is intemperance.  But if we endlessly desire God, for whom we were made, of whom we cannot have enough until the life to come, this is hope.

Oddly, some people confuse these two discontents.  They think that always wanting more, more, more is the divine spark, and that if we ever ceased to be greedy and pugnacious, then life would flatten out.  There are many variations on this theme.

Then again, it isn’t difficult to see how the confusion arises.  Without realizing it, even the crassest worldling longs for God.  His problem is mistaken identification.  Why?  Because he thinks his longing is for something he can find in this world.

St. Augustine taught that mistaken identification is the real reason for the fierce energies of every distorted desire:

“Ambition seeks honor and glory, although You alone are to be honored before all and glorious forever.

“By cruelty the great seek to be feared, yet who is to be feared but God alone: from His power what can be wrested away, or when or where or how or by whom?

“The caresses by which the lustful seduce are a seeking for love: but nothing is more caressing than Your charity, nor is anything more healthfully loved than Your supremely lovely, supremely luminous Truth.

“Curiosity may be regarded as a desire for knowledge, whereas You supremely know all things.

“Ignorance and sheer stupidity hide under the names of simplicity and innocence: yet no being has simplicity like to Yours: and none is more innocent than You, for it is their own deeds that harm the wicked.

“Sloth pretends that it wants quietude: but what sure rest is there save the Lord?

“Luxuriousness would be called abundance and completeness; but You are the fullness and inexhaustible abundance of incorruptible delight.

“Wastefulness is a parody of generosity: but You are the infinitely generous giver of all good.

“Avarice wants to possess overmuch: but You possess all.

“Enviousness claims that it strives to excel: but what can excel before You?”

“Anger clamors for just vengeance: but whose vengeance is so just as Yours?

“Fear is the recoil from a new and sudden threat to something one holds dear, and a cautious regard for one's own safety: but nothing new or sudden can happen to You, nothing can threaten Your hold upon things loved, and where is safety secure save in You?

“Grief pines at the loss of things in which desire delighted: for it wills to be like to You from whom nothing can be taken away.

“Thus the soul is guilty of fornication when she turns from You and seeks from any other source what she will nowhere find pure and without taint unless she returns to You.

“Thus even those who go from You and stand up against You are still perversely imitating You.  But by the mere fact of their imitation, they declare that You are the creator of all that is, and that there is nowhere for them to go where You are not.”

Quoted from Augustine, Confessions, Bk. 2, Ch. 6, Secs. 13-14

See also:


Christian Hedonism?