Yesterday, someone on an internet forum (let’s call him, “Ralf”) asked the question, “Is there a ‘God-shaped vacuum’ in all of us?”
Ralf began by stating that so many different things — entertainment, financial pursuits, sensual pleasures, emotional attachments, social acceptance, and so forth — fail to bring us “a sense of purpose and fulfillment”. He went on to say, because those things don’t bring us a sense of purpose and fulfillment, we have a “vacuum” in us. And he concluded, the vacuum can only be filled by “God”.
I suspect most of us have heard someone make that sort of claim before. It seems to be common enough. Yet, I think it’s only partly accurate.
Here’s what might be accurate about it: It does seem true that some people feel their lives lack purpose; and, of course, without a sense of purpose there can be no sense of fulfillment. If that’s the case with you, then you can have all sorts of things — entertainments, riches, sex, fame, praise, power, and so forth — and still feel your life is meaningless. So, I think Ralf’s claim might be true enough in that respect.
Ralf and I part company, however, over how to best deal with that meaninglessness. In my view, he wants to escape from it, and his chosen method of escape is to posit the existence of a deity who somehow gives his life meaning. While I don’t know whether that really works for Ralf, I do know it doesn’t work for me.
Bluntly put, what Ralf has told me about his god doesn’t turn me on, for I don’t care if my god-given purpose on earth is to be tested for whether I merit an afterlife in a heaven or a hell. Maybe that makes my life meaningful to Ralf’s god, but it’s inadequate to make my life meaningful to me. There is nothing in me that wants to bounce out of bed in the morning and cheerfully face the challenges of another day just because I’m put on this earth to be tested for whether I merit heaven or hell.
There’s no “God-shaped vacuum” in me.
So far as I can figure it out, the best way to deal with existential feelings of meaninglessness, as opposed to feelings of meaningless caused by some sort of psychological disorder such as depression, is to pursue your “boon”, “passion”, “life’s work”, or whatever you want to call it.
What that is varies from one person to the next, but once you find and pursue yours, you will almost certainly discover any existential feelings of meaninglessness are replaced by a profound sense of purpose.
At least, that’s been my experience.