Daniel Pink in his book ‘Whole New Mind’ makes the observation that abundance in the West has led us to look for items which are unique, beautiful and meaningful. He argues that as our living standard has risen steadily over time, our sense of satisfaction has not grown accordingly.
We now have all sorts of gadgets at our disposal which should make our life easier and better, and yet for something to be functional is not enough. We want something more. We have an innate yearning which all our toys and gadgets do not seem to satisfy. Columbia University’s Andrew Delbanco makes the insightful observation in his book The Real American Dream: A Meditation of Hope, “The most striking feature of contemporary culture is the unslaked craving for transcendence.”
We are yearning for something more. Someone or something greater than ourselves. Our cultural response is to assume we can still satisfy our yearnings in goods and products, just ones which are meaningful and beautiful.
Think about candles. Why do we have them? Houses have electricity and light bulbs are cheap. Even in a blackout we are more likely to reach for a torch than a candelabra. Yet stores like Dusk are doing a roaring trade, and in the US this is a multi billion dollar industry. For candles.
It’s not about functionality, but beauty. They create a feel. They create a sense of mystery. They create a mood. They are pseudo spiritual. It seems they can be an attempt to feed our innate yearning for transcendence and beauty.
This yearning is what it means to be human. To search for satisfaction and meaning.
If you find yourself yearning for transcendence, for significance or meaning. Good. Go with it. That is a yearning that I would suggest God has placed in each one of us. I would encourage you to keep wrestling with this yearning, even buy a candle or two if you like, but use them to light your way as you read a section of Scripture, sit in a quiet room and talk to God. Seek after Him. If you do, I suspect you will find far more satisfaction in an encounter with God than any gadget or candle can offer.