Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? C.S. Lewis, Bono and the Argument from Desire via crossexamined.org
by Ted Wright
For better or worse I was a child of the 80’s, and during that time a new rock band came on the scene that changed pop music, both in Britain, America and eventually the world. I immediately loved their sound as soon as I heard it. Their style was unique, and the lyrics had a real message. Their songs resonated much deeper than the typical pop tunes being played on the radio. That band was U2 from Dublin Ireland.
In May of 1987 the band released their 5th studio album titled “The Joshua Tree.” The second track on that album is a “gospel-esque” song that producer Danny Lanois encouraged Bono to write. The song is “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The song has been acclaimed by many critics and publications as one of the greatest songs of all time.
What makes this song so unique and timeless? Sure it’s Bono’s excellent vocals, Adam Clayton’s chilled-out bass, and the Edge’s astral guitar licks, but I believe that it is also something more, something much deeper. The song touches on a truth that is embedded in all people – a deep sense of longing and desire for something that this present world cannot fully satisfy. Here is the second refrain.
“I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her finger tips
It burned like fire
(I was) burning inside her.
I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.”
The song is written in the style of a gospel-lament which has it roots in the Psalms, the Lamentations of Jeremiah and later, African-American Spirituals. So, what is the singer lamenting?
He is lamenting that no matter what he tries or what he does, ultimate satisfaction isn’t found in this world. His satisfaction must come from somewhere else. He was made for something else, for somewhere else, or perhaps for someone else. He is a pilgrim and a sojourner on this earth, “just a passing through.”
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis articulates an argument for the existence of God based on our dissatisfactions as well as our deepest desire, which sounds a lot like the lyrics of U2’s song. I would even argue that the core idea is the virtually the same.
Lewis’s argument goes like this:
…A baby feels hunger; well there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world
Philosopher Peter Kreeft has done us a great service and re-formulated Lewis’s argument from desire into a syllogism that might be a little easier to follow.
Every natural innate desire corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire
But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth and no creature can satisfy.
Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth, and creatures which can satisfy this desire.
This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”
Premise 1 – Every natural desire corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire
The key here is that every natural desire has a corresponding reality. The implication is that there is a distinction between two kinds of desires – natural desires and artificial desires. Everyone has natural desires, like the desire for water, food, sleep, friendship (companionship), etc…, but we also have desires for things that are artificial, or conditioned by society – like the desire to be famous, or the desire to possess superpowers (like one of the Avengers), or the desire to own a Ferrari.
However, with the artificial desires we don’t recognize a condition called “Ferrari-lessness” which corresponds to, say a natural desire like the desire for water (thirst), or for food (hunger).
Premise 2 – But there exists a desire in us which nothing in time, nothing on earth and no creature can satisfy.
This premise is existentially true, and either one senses it or not. It can’t be forced. It may be pointed out, however, that even though one might not sense a desire for God, it doesn’t mean that the desire is non-existent, just buried under the concerns, the worries and the busyness of life.
The Southern novelist Walker Percy commenting on “the search” in his classic novel The Moviegoer (1961) touches on this idea:
The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be on to something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.
Something is missing, so we despair. Indeed, as Thoreau writes, “…most men live lives of quiet desperation” (Civil Disobedience & other Essays), or like mythical, Greek Sisyphus, we “feel” the futility and the endless drudgery of work & life and deeply sense that there must be “something more.”
If God is the ultimate source of joy and fellowship, then nothing but Him and Him alone (& life with Him forever) will satisfy the heart of every person.
This truth has been articulated by many different voices throughout history.
“For He [God] has set eternity in the hearts of men…” – King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
“Thou, O Lord hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee” – St. Augustine (The Confessions)
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” – Blaise Pascal (Pensees)
“Not to be onto something is to be in despair” – Walker Percy (The Moviegoer)
“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” – U2 (Bono)
Peter Kreeft brilliantly summarizes premise 2 this way:
The second premise requires only honest introspection. If someone defies it and says, “I am perfectly happy playing with mud pies, sports cars, or money, or sex, or power,” we can only ask, “Are you really?” But we can only appeal, we cannot compel… Even the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre admitted that “there comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?’”
Premise 3 – Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth, and creatures which can satisfy this desire.
Premise 4 – This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”
Admittedly, the conclusion of this argument is not an “air-tight” case for the God of the Bible, but it is certainly a stepping stone. When the argument from desire is placed alongside of other arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological argument, and the teleological argument, then I think it makes a pretty compelling case worthy of serious consideration.
Kreeft says, “What it proves is an unknown X, but an unknown whose direction, so to speak, is known. This X is more: more beauty, more desirability, more awesomeness, more joy.”
Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. ~ C.S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory, pg. 42)
Truth, Goodness & Beauty
It may be that beauty, and our desire for infinite beauty and truth and goodness is where we feel the unfulfilled longing the most, as Kreeft brilliantly explains:
There are three things that will never die: truth, goodness and beauty. These are three things that we all need, and need absolutely, and know we need absolutely. Our minds want not only some truth and some falsehood, but all truth, without limit. Our wills want not only some good and some evil, but all good, without limit. Our desires, imaginations, feelings or hearts just want not just some beauty and some ugliness, but all beauty without limit.
For these are three things that we will never get bored with, and never will, for all eternity, because they are three attributes of God, and therefore all God’s creation: three transcendental or absolutely universal principles of all reality. …Truth, goodness and beauty are ‘patches of Godlight’ here in the ‘Shadowlands.’ Their home is Yonder.
Christianity teaches that the only way to truly KNOW God is through Jesus Christ who came to reveal Him for Who He truly is.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3)
Flesh melts like wax.
Cars bend and fall apart.
Houses need new roofs, plumbing…repairs.
Careers are solid until/if your health declines.
Money is hard for most to come by, yet so quickly it goes.
The things of this world will never truly make anyone happy.
We can’t ever completely catch up. The madness is endless.
We see the richest of rich having affairs, plastic surgery, sex changes, and all sorts of things because even having it ALL on earth is not enough (Just being very wealthy doesn’t mean that you are doing these). There’s always going to be a longing for something more, no matter what your place in society concerning money and all else.
It’s amazing how the majority of what’s on television today is reality t.v. & It’s also amazing what passes the approval to become a reality show. People seem to eat it up. Human beings are very much caught up in the things of this life while missing the point. What happened to classic sitcoms-fictional characters facing everyday life stuff? The world is all grown up now, and far less censored than when I was a kid.
How much further can we take it?
The person most dedicated to his or her faith is not immune. It is very easy to become distracted by the things that shimmer, the things the flood our homepages and Facebook News-feeds.
Human beings are silly little creatures. I mean, we really can be. It is so mortal, so fleshy of us, and so carnal to become envious, and eat jealousy. To hate people for things they’ve done to us, when the truth is, we are just as capable of doing the same stuff to them, whether we believe so or not. Forgiveness.
Nobody is better than anybody else in this world. I don’t see reason for one mortal to be great and another small. It doesn’t matter what your life looks like to someone else, its what it feels like to you.
What are you living for?
You may be in a place of peace, happiness, any of all sorts of points across the spectrum. Perhaps the opposite end, severely depressed, and even suicidal.
This is another thing about us human beings. We experience sadness or darkness, and deal with our circumstances in our own ways, but the thing is, there’s more than just what we think or believe. I suppose when you are asked what you are living for, the question of why are you here may arise. It’s because these 2 things are tied together.
You were given life because you are supposed to be here. It may not make sense. Ever. But it is truth. Your life matters. Wherever you are, and whatever you believe or consider to be that makes up your very identity.
There’s so much more to think about than what we have here. Look at the headlines of the news, via paper or online. Anybody at least 20 years old can tell things have really taken a dramatic turn around in the last…years. Point is, we mustn’t take anything for granted, nor get too comfy here in this crazy world that is growing crazier day by day.
Do you know Jesus?
There’s more than this. The Fountain of Living Water is outpouring, free of charge to all who ask.
I’m getting sleepy!
Pajamas on, teeth brushed, almost time for reading a few pages of Paper Towns, then out like a light…but wait…
I am so grateful for the changes in my life this past year…that I have to make this an actual a post when I’d planned on only sharing an image.
I’m flooded with blessings. My grateful heart sings out tonight.
Growing closer to God is a very exciting and interesting experience. You may be hesitant to approach Him, or not. We all have our own identities, pasts, our own struggles, our own personal understanding. If you know God or seek after Him, you will find that we all have our own unique, individual relationships with The Lord. He knows this. There’s a place inside of all of us that yearns for love. We crave it. We all want to be accepted and cared for whether we admit it or not. God is love. He created that space inside of you. In fact, He wants to be included there!
Life can be quite confusing at times, but there are answers for everything. Take forgiveness for example.
The answer is found at the foot of the Cross…
Tonight I leave my darkest fears, my biggest worries, and everything else in the hands of God. I usually unload my heart before bed in prayer and He gladly picks up my pieces. With every day that comes I am stronger than before.
You can put aside all worries, fears and doubts. Yes, you can! We can choose to know Peace-the only peace that surpasses understanding. How is the peace of God in Christ different? This type of peace holds true no matter how horrible the situation. This peace is so powerful that upon receiving it, we are made free, and able to face anything. Everything!
Faith must be tended to daily, for just as we need food to survive as human beings, our spiritual selves (our souls) thrive on the spiritual food of God’s Word, aka The Bible. Spiritual famine leads to soul sickness. No matter how much you have or how great your life seems, you will be unsatisfied until you satisfy your soul. It is very easy to get caught up in the matters of this life: finances, relationships, work, health problems and so on. A single negative thought, if held onto or obsessed on…is deadly. The very concept of faith knocks out all doubt. Doubt is absent in faith!
I will not worry about lack because I know that God has my part ready for me somewhere I may not see at the time. The decision-making that drive me nuts, and all that my heart wrestles with, are already worked out by God. If I just go to Him for guidance I will be able to find my way, perhaps not easier or more quickly, but by including God in all matters, I’m guaranteed to find the right way.
Because of Jesus, we can have confidence, knowing that God’s got it all under control.
Perhaps you will consider giving The Creator a chance, a second glance…and know that He holds it all in His hands. The answers were there before you had the questions.
Wishing sweet dreams to everyone.
*image via Google