Blaise Pascal was a 17th Century mathematician, scientist, philosopher, and theologian who, while still a teenager, even invented rudimentary calculators.
You might wonder how a brilliant man from the 1600s could be relevant to a person living in the 21st century, except maybe as a curiosity for his various scientific and mathematical contributions. Even more, despite his theological and philosophical thoughts, we might question why Pascal is someone Christians should notice.
Pascal is credited for a few ideas which have persisted into the modern day. His work on probability theory launched that area of study (Ever play Dungeons and Dragons? Roll the dice and see probability in action!) and his work in hydraulics will be evident if you watch your car lifted for an oil change.
In my mind, one of his most poignant and important works, though, is often termed “Pascal’s God-Shaped Hole.”
As geeks, we often have hobbies that fill a great deal of our time. Video games, tabletop games, movies, television series, et cetera — they can consume a great deal of time and, if we are not careful, consume us.
Pascal postulated in his Pensees that for each of us, there is a proverbial hole within our hearts. It leaves us craving and seeking happiness. Regardless of our possessions, wealth, or satiation with food and drink, we still seek more.
Pascal said this desire to seek more is evidence that, at one point, there was a man who was completely satisfied and happy. As Christians, we recognize that this is Adam, the first of our kind, who walked with God in the Garden of Eden and knew nothing of want.
Therein lies the key — the satisfaction we seek is in God rather than any temporal fulfillment. As Pascal said, “this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
While everyone is subject to these longings, as geeks we have a particular relationship with them that many outside of geek culture may not comprehend. We are often at the edge of society, seen as “different,” “odd,” or even “disturbed.”
Look around you at those who would call themselves, or be called, geeks. Look at yourself.
We stand in line for hours to get into a convention where, inside, people are dressing as their favorite characters, drooling over collectibles, or swooning over a semi-famous actor who was once an extra in some superhero film.
We wait until midnight to purchase the newest release, or we have already pre-purchased the property months in advance.
We gather together to roleplay as characters we have created, sometimes losing ourselves in fantasy for hours on end.
We read Tolkien and argue about the relative merits of hobbits, dwarves, elves, and orcs.
We binge-watch entire seasons of anime, Star Wars shows, or Firefly (sadly only one season… shame on you, Joss Whedon!) and endlessly debate the events contained in them.
These behaviors are peculiar at best to most outside geekdom, though in most cases they are as benign as any hobby.
These behaviors, and more, point me to the conclusion Pascal was right. We are seeking meaning and fulfillment outside of ourselves to plug a hole inside of ourselves.
Pascal further states:
“God alone is man’s true good, and since man abandoned him, it is a strange fact that nothing in nature has been found to take his place: stars, sky, earth, elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, serpents, fever, plague, war, famine, vice, adultery, incest. Since losing his true good, man is capable of seeing it in anything, even his own destruction, although it is so contrary at once to God, to reason and to nature.”
As Christians, we know our identity and hope rests in Christ alone.
But do we try to fill the hole within us with other things? I know I do, to my own dismay.
I pray as we all go about our lives and pursue our geeky interests that we do not lose sight of the one true fulfillment – that of Christ.
I leave you with His words:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6 ESV)