June 26, 2008

Consolation-Seeking: The Spiritual Equivalent of Materialism?

I recently read these comments from a letter written by the German poet Rainer M. Rilke:
"But about Spinoza a request: you know about my plans for a talk on how and whether God reciprocates our love. A note I recently read somewhere brought to mind the wonderful relation about Spinoza (I think) established through his insight that the act of loving God is independent of any reciprocal motion on God's part: so that I might not have to go any farther than this one path would take me."
Later I read an encyclopedia entry on Rilke and it mentioned that he came to the conclusion that because of God's immanence, man and God have need of each other.

This is background to how and whether people feel God's love, called by St. John of the Cross (and many others) as "consolations". If we seek consolations as materialistic women seek expensive shopping trips from their husbands, are we any different from one of the characters in the movie "Sex in the City", which Ross Douthat takes to task in the latest National Review?
[This] is what the movie is: a devotional for conspicuous consumers (“I’ve died and gone to real-estate heaven,” Carrie exhales), with mates and children reduced to mere accessories, flesh-and-blood equivalents of the Right Dress, the Right Purse, and the Right Apartment. “Women come to New York for the two L’s: Labels and Love,” Carrie opines, absurdly, early in the film, but from the shoe-closet scene on it’s clear which L matters most. Save for Nixon, the finest actress in the troupe, who wrings real humanity out of Miranda’s marital struggles, the women treat their men primarily as the means to a material end, whether it’s comfortable domesticity, high-end shopping, or really great sex.
The Sex in the City gals use rich men as a means to a material end; we have a rich God, and there's surely a tendency to want to use Him as a means to consolation.

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