“The heart wants what the heart wants.”
Happy Valentine’s Day for all of you this month of February, here’s a question for you, is that true that the heart wants what the heart wants? If it is, do we have to do what the heart wants? Usually when this is said it is said as a concession for a certain kind of behavior. I may be in a relationship with this person but the heart wants what the heart wants and off they go to another. But then, the heart wants what the heart wants and off again to another…then another…then another.
Or sometimes some form of this idea is verbalized with “if it makes you happy” popularized by Sheryl Crow. If it makes you happy of course you should do that thing or pursue that person or negate all responsibilities and sit in the basement and play video games till your life is pixilated. It’s interesting to note in Sheryl Crow’s song she does ask the question, “if it makes you happy…why are you so sad?” Suggesting that maybe what makes you “happy” may not actually be what makes you happy.
But is this all there is to the human condition? Are we simply a collection of organic, chemical, neurotransmitters all bundled together firing and misfiring producing our most deep felt desires and emotions and making them all into a lie and a façade of organic chemistry? Are you simply the sum of your parts and your emotions and feelings, your heart and consciousness having no more bearing and substance than a bunch of dice tossed on the floor and just happening to roll snake’s eyes? Is what the heart wants only organic chemicals in your brain that drag you around by the nose where genetics and culture want you to go?
This is what is called a purely materialistic view of the world and humanity. We are no more than the sum of our parts, there is no spirit, no soul and because of that no free will and no choice, just hormones playing the tune and like good marionettes we dance when our strings are pulled.
There is a Pixar movie coming out whose premise it seems to be just that. Now, I haven’t seen the movie, just the trailer, but this is the impression I got. Here’s the synopsis from Pixar:
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
I don’t know how the movie will end up and I’m really tossing up whether I’ll take my kids to see this one. In the trailer, when the emotions decided it was time to do something then they would hit a button and the dad would hit the table or the little girl would throw a temper tantrum. What worries me about this is that my kids will get the impression that ultimately they do not have any control over their actions or emotions, they are simply governed by neuro-chemicals that push buttons and make things happen. If I didn’t know better, this would be a modernized version of the argument, “the devil made me do it.” With that kind of argument there is absolutely no moral grounds for discipline or punishment. Take this a step farther, horrific crimes of rape, abuse or murder cannot be morally prosecuted, they’re perpetrators simply victims themselves of genetics, environment, chemicals and neuro-transmitters, they are not in control, rather a chemical emotion pushed a button and they committed that heinous crime.
The implications are profound and simple, if there is no spirit no soul, no consciousness running the show, a soul that has free will to act as a free agent in the midst of hormones, chemicals, environment, genetics and the like, then there is no moral obligation nor moral freedom, there is also no meaning or purpose beyond random chance of things by happenstance going bump. Extend the logic beyond the human creature to the material universe and the same applies, there is no God and all is simple random chance with no moral obligation or purpose or meaning.
In this purely materialistic view there is no room for spirit, for freedom or for God. But here is one of the binds of this kind of argument, if there is no spirit and no God, if everything occurs by pure, stupid, blind chance, then how can we believe anything to be true at all? We Westerns value are cognitive abilities, our rationality, or view of scientific progress and intellectual enlightenment. But if everything happening in your head is purely random chance in a world of purely random chance, how you can you trust your perceptions or senses at all? Sure, you might look at a wild lion in front of you and instinctively know it is a threat, but you wouldn’t be able to say anything true about it, like the lion was a lion and not a duck, or a space alien from Mars or a third grader with a really, really bad temper.
If we lived in a purely materialistic world and we ourselves were purely materialistic then we could never be able to trust anything to be true at all. The world would be a random ball of chance and we couldn’t ever know if we were reading this newsletter or not, in that kind of world we would be reduced to emotional balls of clay paralyzed from ever acting or living.
But that is not the world we live in; instead it is a surprisingly orderly and rational world, with scientific laws and truths that govern our world, our universe and us. This is not how it should be if we lived in a purely materialistic reality. It is the reason that science has any success at all is because we live in a rational world that can be observed and predicted with regularity, a then b will probably happen, kind of reality. But this is only possible from a reality that is created and governed by these kinds of laws and rationality, and that cannot come from pure, random chance. That would be like dropping a 2 billion-piece puzzle out of a box and expecting a replica of the Empire State Building to pop out. No, the more rational understanding is to look to a source of this rationality and that is the mind and Spirit of God that has created a reality for us to live within, to know, to observe, to act as free agents with moral responsibility because of His great love for His creation.