Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Today's 'Pensee' - Diversion

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), mathematician and philosopher, left behind a series of 'fragments' which he had been compiling in preparation for a major work defending the Christian faith. Though his work was never completed, he has left behind much that is worth pondering. To that end, here are a couple of Pascal's 'Pensees' on the nature of man and his desire for diversions. In these two brief fragments, Pascal suggests that human beings seek after diversions to keep themselves from reflecting on their true nature and circumstances. If they reflected on their situation, humans would become 'miserable', and might just seek after the truth (Christianity, to Pascal, of course).

"Anyone who does not see the vanity of the world is very vain himself. So who does not see it, apart from young people whose lives are all noise, diversions, and thoughts for the future? But take away their diversion and you will see them bored to extinction. Then they feel their nullity without recognizing it, for nothing could be more wretched than to be intolerably depressed as soon as one is reduced to introspection with no means of diversion." (36)

"The only good thing for men is to be diverted from thinking of what they are, either by some occupation which takes their mind off it, or by some novel and agreeable passion which keeps them busy ..., in short what is called diversion." (137)

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