Human Flourishing in a Society Governed by Feelings

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors.

At this point in societal evolution the question of "What is the best judge of the good life" has been distilled to one-category: feelings. What makes one feel good in the moment in which they desire to feel good is accepted as the profitable ethic for life. If that means the use of drugs then so be it. If that entails multiple sexual partners or partners of the same gender then so be it. If that means ingesting copious amount of food, media, or anything else that creates this sensation then so be it. Long live carpe diem is our mantra, but it is also our madness.

This should come as no shock to a society driven by naturalistic materialism, and consumed by consumerism. We are but machines in search of our next charge, and customers searching for the elusive final purchase. What we asked for we have received. However, the truly shocking part of this is what human beings have given up in order to get here.

As we all know nothing is free. There is an exchange that must take place in order for what you want to become what you have. In our lust after carpe diem and the good life we never believed the transaction was anything but a bargain. If not, then maybe we simply are crazy. For why go so far down a rabbit hole when you know what is at the bottom is something you do not want? Nevertheless, we have it, possess it, own it in full, but in doing so have relinquished the one thing that can make us happy. C.S. Lewis called this transaction the magician's bargain. Give up what you need and get what you want in return, but once you have what you want you can't use it as it was intended because of what you sold to obtain it. The question then becomes not "Has it worked" but "How can it work?"

What our society sold was the belief that human flourishing came about through means other than self-gratification. We abandoned the notion that feelings are wonderful servants, but horrible masters. We re-adjusted it, fashioning it into something we believed was higher and nobler. The spiral set in motion, and no concrete fix, at least one that will garner wide support, is in the works. This Nietzschean re-adjustment of the transvaluation of values is nearly complete. Except the new conception of humanity is worse than the old paganism. It is devoid of any objective grounds to truth, goodness, and virtue. We are merely governed by instinct and feelings, we have no higher justification for our actions, and this is why these motives are so often invoked as authoritative.

It would seem all is lost, but with each turn of the re-adjustment a haunting understanding is building. What is conceived and lived as life, by many secular and religious alike, is so unfulfilling that any and every escape imaginable has been employed to keep us from asking "Why am I not flourishing in this environment?" If the accepted and preached social, moral, political and religious environment is currently the best possible way of life, than why are so many people broken? Why aren't they flourishing? Wasn't a life governed by feelings meant to produce a higher state of human flourishing?

The answer is simple. Just like a gasoline engine runs best on a specific type of fuel, so the human being runs best on a specific type of existence, a specific type of life. Human flourishing is only attainable under specific circumstances, and a society ruled and governed by feelings is not it. However, the truly deviant nature of this shift towards an epistemology of feelings is its bleed over into the realm of objective values. No longer is such a destructive environment denounced, but simply blinked blandly at, as if the whole experiment were somehow neutral. And those who would call this fantasyland into question, are labeled fanatics and fundamentalist and told to preach their Jeremiah ads elsewhere.

Our society's only hope is that we break free of this death spiral. But repentance is involved in this break from our current trajectory. We must admit the avenues currently in use have led us down a path of human destruction, not human flourishing. Yet, the one thing every polite socialite knows is that if anything is clear in this haze it is the worthlessness of repentance.

Michael E. Brooks has two master's degrees from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and an Ed.D in Higher Education from Union University. He is currently the Children and Families Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church in Dothan, Alabama.