I met a philosophy professor the other day.
Well, actually I see him a few times a week. He frequents the same coffee shop I do. We have often caught each other’s eye over our laptops from across the room. It was just a matter of time before we struck up a conversation. He is a very nice man and very smart, just like me. He is also writing a book and enjoys the coffee shop atmosphere.
I asked him what his book was about. He spoke for a couple minutes about other philosophers comparing his thought with theirs. I recognized a few of the names and remember hearing something about “mother issues” but I was definitely in over my head. I think he saw it on my face so he said, “Really, I am writing about the human condition.”
He then began to explain the state of mankind in such abstract terms that I was soon lost again - “which is good if you are a philosophy professor,” I thought. By the time he was finished talking, as best as I could tell, his book seemed to be about nothing. At first I was impressed because I’m pretty sure writing a book about nothing is harder than writing about something, and also, who doesn’t love Seinfeld?
While I was trying to form a question that didn’t embarrass either of us, he continued, “What is pain, what is joy, or love?” he asked. “They are just feelings, just needs – life is a random roll of the dice. Nothing in this universe is sure; everything is determined by what you feel and by what you need.”
“It really is a book about nothing,” I thought again. And also I thought about how funny Kramer looks when he bursts through Seinfeld’s door. Yeah, I was multi tasking.
He went on to say that man is the sum of what we feel, we are the sum of our needs—emotionally and physically. There is no great purpose or meaning to life and all our philosophies and theologies are simply the wild imaginings of men who need to feel a sense of purpose. In the end, life is about gratifying our senses while trying to avoid pain. Life is one big need driven experience.
“Sometimes my mouth opens and my vocal chords push words out of before my head can get involved.”
Sometimes my mouth opens and my vocal chords push words out of before my head can get involved. It can be very embarrassing, like when I confused the words Neapolitan and menopause. (No wait, that was my sister Aimee)
Oh, like when I was eating spicy chicken curry and thanked God that the Native Americans came up with this genius food. (No, that was my brother Joel)
Oh yeah, the time I thought Sony Bono and Bono were the same person and wondered how that worked with Cher. (Nope, that wasn’t me; it was the girl I fell head over heals in love with and married)
(Oh, now I remember) There was the time I said to a philosophy professor who was writing a book -
“So, you are writing a book about nothing?”
He smiled. It was a tired smile. He didn’t seem to notice my embarrassment at my outburst or consider my question odd. In fact, I think he was very familiar with this question. “In a way, yes,” he replied.
I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t think of anything else to say about his book. I almost mentioned Seinfeld to make him feel better. “That show was about nothing and seemed to work,” I thought. But this time I was able to control my vocal chords.
It was overwhelming, the idea of writing a book about nothing. Our only common denominator was that both of us were writing books. But after that our two roads diverged. My sincerest prayer is that my book would be about something. And not just any something.
I finally asked, “So, how long have you been working on your book?”
“For almost twenty years.”
Twenty years! That broke my heart. That a man would write faithfully for twenty years is amazing. That a man can write about nothing for twenty years is excruciating. I felt sad for this tired man who seems to have been searching for some truth in a universe where he is convinced truth doesn’t exist.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked him the question that should never be asked of a philosophy professor. “Where does God fit in?”
I watched him physically shift into professor mode. He was both quick to acknowledge that religion plays a role in philosophy but also that religion was for weak-minded individuals.
“I hadn’t asked him about religion, I’d asked about God. He had done what many often do and confused the two as being one and the same. So I tried the same question from a different angle…”
“Good thing I didn’t tell him what I was writing about,” I thought.
But I hadn’t asked him about religion, I’d asked about God. He had done what many often do and confused the two as being one and the same. So I tried the same question from a different angle.
“Where does Love fit in?”
He looked at me – the look was one of absolute exhaustion, as if this question was just too much for him. “Love is a subjective feeling, a physiological need,” he responded.
“But what if you’re wrong, what if it isn’t?” I asked. “What if Love is the very foundation of everything? What if Love is the beginning and the end and everything in between and everything ever after? What if Love answers every question that aches in the heart of humanity? What if Love is more than a feeling? What if love meets every need?”
He looked at me, annoyed. I think this question is the one that he found embarrassing, as if I had just taken leave of my senses.
My heart broke. I could see this man had been wounded deeply at some point in his life. He clearly no longer believed in Love.
“What if Love walked the earth as a man, died, and rose again so that we could be set free, free to fully receive love and to love in return? What if Love had the power to meet every need that ever existed?”
Then I sensed his dismissal, our conversation coming to a close. But I wanted to ask him more questions. I wanted to ask him questions that if answered in Spirit and Truth would radically forever change the way this professor thinks.
What if Love created everything? What if Love saw what He had created and said, “It is good.” Which is something Love would probably say. What if Love has all authority but does not control? What if Love is about freedom? What if Love walked the earth as a man, died, and rose again so that we could be set free, free to fully receive love and to love in return? What if Love isn’t a feeling but a tangible expression of that same freedom? What if Love had the power to meet every need that ever existed?
These thoughts burst in my heart.
Love! It’s a profoundly infinite and beautiful Person, a measureless revelation. Love - the best discovery. Love - the only story worth writing about.
Another writer once put it this way. “If every one of (the things Love did) was written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 22:25)
If only my new Philosophy Professor friend knew this Love, well, then he could know what it is to live and write with purpose, and destiny, and legacy. He could spend the next twenty years filling the world with books about something.
Before he packed up to go, he asked what I was writing about. I told him that I was writing a book about Love. I said, “its going to be something.”
He said he would like to read it sometime.
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Website: www.afamilystory.org