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Classical Education

Traces of Transcendence and The Search for Meaning

By May 26, 2023No Comments

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An excerpt from the commencement speech, Traces of Transcendence and the Search for Meaning.
by Eric Cook

When you leave home, the search for meaning intensifies, as most things do when you go through transitions. Launching out into the new and unknown inevitably comes with challenges, temptations, and adventures. One temptation is to minimize the urgency and priority of the search. Many young people would prefer to delay the examined life by reasoning, “I will do that when I am older. I’m too young, too immature, too inexperienced; and besides, that sounds kind of intense. I can do it later.” Be careful about banking on an uncertain future. The Bible is replete with instruction, warnings, and reminders to maintain a godly perspective on time. As Solomon reminds us, we must not “boast about tomorrow because we do not know what a day may bring” (Prov. 27:1).

Psalm 90 tells us to “number of our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” We think it is morbid to think like this, but the ancients didn’t. Sinclair Ferguson notes that what Psalm 90 instructs us to do, number our days, is not for old people. It is for young people. Old people are already keenly aware of their limited time. They feel in it their bodies and minds every day. The truth is, we don’t know how many days we have, but we do know our days are indeed numbered. Knowing that helps us redeem the time we have remaining. Or, you could always just buy the WeCroak app, which reminds you that you are going to die five times a day…

Another allurement in the search for meaning is self-indulgence. The search for meaning is not easy. It requires patience, perseverance, and resolve. The path of self-indulgence, however, is easy. It is easy to do what we want to do with no regard for what we ought to do. The prodigal son, with resources at his disposal, gave himself over to his impulses believing he would find satisfaction. However, he discovered that the ease of indulgence was undercut by the harsh reality of guilt and shame. The more he satiated his lusts, the more he distanced himself from the comforts of home and blinded himself to the traces of transcendence.

If you, like the Apostle Paul, die to yourself and pursue the highest Good with unrelenting resolve, you must embrace the epic spiritual battle that will ensue. Steve Pressfield, in his book, The War of Art, says this: “Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” The struggle, the resistance you will encounter as you pursue the Good, will help you realize that you are not sufficient for the task. It will keep you dependent on the object of your faith, not the strength of your will.