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The misleading paths of Marx and Hegel and the need for meaning

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The contemporary man often gets lost in a tangle of needs of different kinds and caliber, mixing the right and wrong. For he has lost sight of the most important need: the need for meaning.

Wojciech Roszkowski

One of the most important questions that can lead to clarification of many issues is: What are human needs? If we laugh at verbal slip-ups on the holiday of “Six Kings1,” we are driven by the need for a joke or the need to mock other people; the author of similar slip-ups may be driven by an overwhelming need to perform in public. Needs, then, range from the need for food and drink or security to the need to get out of anonymity or power at any cost. Needs are thus legitimate and necessary or questionable and even reprehensible. The fulfillment of the needs of ordinary people can produce ordinary and unnoticeable social effects, unless they are similar processes on a mass scale. The needs of the authorities have effects that reach much further, as we have recent proof of in the form of the tragic consequences of the fulfillment of the Kremlin’s need to establish a “Russian mir” in Ukraine.

The contemporary man often gets lost in a tangle of needs of different kinds and caliber, mixing the right and wrong. For he has lost sight of the most important need: the need for meaning. He has even dethroned God, claiming that He is unable to overcome logical contradictions. For he asks whether God can create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it. The modern man measures everything, even God, by his own yardstick.

On the Feast of the Epiphany, which was mentioned at the beginning, responsorial psalm 72 is read in the Church, the words of which were probably written 3,000 years ago, as it is attributed to King Solomon:

Endow the king with your justice, O God, […]

May he rule from sea to sea

and from the river to the ends of the earth […].

May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores

bring tribute to him.

May the kings of Sheba and Seba

present him gifts..

May all kings bow down to him

and all nations serve him.”

What did the psalmist from such distant times mean by this? Do his archaic-sounding words still have any relevance and context today? It is worth reflecting on, because these words contain the hope that the God of Israel, who gives meaning to the world, will reign over the whole world. Despite the complicated history of Israel and Christianity over the past thirty centuries, this has happened to some extent, because the God of Abraham and Jacob can explain the meaning of the world in almost all corners of the globe. However, this has not been the case, because He is not in control of the consciences of the majority of the Earth’s inhabitants. They have their own very different needs, among which the need for meaning either takes a distant place in the hierarchy, or they understand their lives in a way that excludes the search for the main meaning, because they are busy only working and spending their time.

In the World Cup final, Argentinian fans wanted to triumph over France, and French fans wanted Argentinian defeat. Both needs could not be fulfilled. Contradictions are an inherent condition in our lives, but they are not the basis of life. Perhaps the most important meaning of the match was the great skill and display of the champions, a source of satisfaction in itself.

Modern thinkers very often come to the conclusion that without God the world makes no sense. However, they stop there, ignoring the need for meaning that is embedded as if in our genes. Simply put, without meaning we are unwell.

If God exists, then He is the meaning and gives meaning to the world. Contradictions may be laughed at, but they do not concern Him. The Word, which was in the beginning, is meaning, because it would be impossible to create a world based on meaninglessness and contradictions. This is well demonstrated by the effects of philosophies derived from Hegel and Marx, in which hopes for development were based on the struggle of opposites. They are a by-product of our world, but not its foundation.

1 A reference to a slip of the tongue by Ryszard Petru concerning the feast of the Epiphany, commonly known as Three Kings’ Day, celebrated each year on January 6th

This article was published in January 2022 in “Do Rzeczy” weekly.