Humans Are Useless

Beauty begets love. A flutter and twitch of female lashes can crush a man’s heart like a Bud Light can under a steamroller. A father who spends the day immersed in the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley returns by night with hugs for his children and a softer touch for his wife. Beauty begets love, as sunlight wakens sleepers, and I hope this an obvious experience, if not an obvious phrase.

Love likewise begets beauty. Beautiful art is a “labor of love.” Love has poetry gush from the dry well of a man’s imagination, music from a girl ashamed to sing, and literature from the lonely.

The reason for this relationship is not that the two are both glorious, wonderful, and likely to be pasted in Helvetica over instagrammed pictures of middle-schoolers making out on a beach. Beauty and love are bonded by their similar operations within the human person.

To appreciate a thing as beautiful is to appreciate it as useless, not because it is trash, but because it is real treasure. That which is beautiful is good in and of itself. We do not appreciate the beautiful in regards to how we can use it, change it, or by what it can do for us. We appreciate the beautiful for being, for presenting itself to our intellect — for existing.

Think of a few things which most human beings would agree to crown with the predicate “beautiful”. The Pieta, Mozart’s Requiem, the cool morning sun spilling through summer leaves, a fiery New England autumn, stained glass: What could we answer the man who asks us for the use of these things? We couldn’t, besides to babble an incoherent, self-contradicting set of phrases: “Its use is to be. It is for its own existence. It is here to be beautiful.” We may — in an attempt to make ourselves at least partially rational beings — say that we do use these things: We use them to experience the peace and delight they give to us. But this is only to say we experience beautiful things in order to have an experience of beauty. There is no outside end.

If a man were to view a Degas solely with the mindset that by purchasing it, he would become famous, respected, and mentioned at cocktail parties, he does not consider the painting beautiful. It is a means to an end. It is merely useful. The man who travels miles to see the same Degas for no other reason to see the Degas — he has come to see beauty, for the Degas is useless to him.

Or consider pornography. Why does no one — except the inhumanly hip — consider pornography beautiful? The nude body is beautiful, as Botticelli’s Venus will testify. Sex is beautiful, as thousands upon thousands of humans will testify. Good cinematography is beautiful (and with the angle work, lighting, soundtrack and all the rest, pornography certainly has the capacity to indulge in real cinematography). Why then, is the sum of all these — the pornography itself — so far removed from beauty? Because pornography is useful.

It is appreciated insofar as it achieves a goal outside of itself — sexual pleasure. It is useful, which is only to say it is not appreciated for its own sake. It is not admired for simply being. It is used, and the beautiful has no more to do with “use” then, well, then love has to do with use. And thus we arrive at the connection.

Love in its fullness adores the useless. I may claim to love a girl for her uses, her purposes, an emotion she grants me, or a pleasure, or a security. But when all is said and done, I either love her or I love not at all. This is not to say that romantic love should be without its gifts, gains, pleasures and glories, but that love would still adore the beloved if all these things were stripped away. When the poems are written, the flowers faded, and the faces wrinkled, love still desires the ultimate good of its beloved, the good of the person, beyond any conceivable use.

But this has a fascinating implication as to what the hell we’re doing here. I’ve been forever nagged by the question an atheist once asked me: If there is a God, why did he create us? The routine catechism answer — “to know, love and serve Him” — didn’t cut it for me, in part because it seems circular, in part because — taken stupidly — it makes God out to be the needy, whining, patriarch that Richard Dawkins is so darn frightened of. If God is love, if he exists in the absolute perfection of love, totally self-fulfilled, then why would he create man, knowing the mess we’d get into? He doesn’t need us. We are useless to him.

And then I stopped. Because that’s precisely the answer. We are useless to him. We are as utterly, incredibly useless as the Pietas and solar eclipses and Blue Ridge Mountains of this universe. We are useless, and God is love, and love revels and delights in the useless. What are we then, we of arms and teeth and hearts and hair? We are the art of God, his beautiful ones, for our whole worth lies in the fact that he loves us, as the whole worth of something as useless as Mozart’s Requiem lies in the fact that we appreciate it as such, that we appreciate it as beautiful, that we appreciate it as useless.

The whole reason for our existence is that there is no reason for our existence. The greatest compliment we can give a man is to embrace him and say: There is no reason for you! None at all. You are utterly useless, for you are begotten by Love.  And our response to this fact can be none other than love for each other. For beauty should beget love, and humans are beautiful in their uselessness. We should likewise cease to use each other, for there is therefore nothing more contradictory to humans — who have no use — than to be used.

I write this like a drunk, and it’s time to sober up. After all, the attempt to find similarity between our own experience and that of God’s is bound to find a greater difference. But we can take comfort that, in a world obsessed with appropriating worth based on wealth, status, looks, name, race, religion, and all the rest, our true worth is only this, that we are loved.

  • harlemriverwes

    Beautiful article, Marc. Insightful and poetic. Loved it.

  • http://twitter.com/inacaps inacaps

    This is the most useless post ever. Take it as a compliment. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bkruszewski Brennan Kruszewski

    Strong shades of the Nicomachean Ethics here, Marc. Love that you’re working in Aristotle, consciously or unconciously. Either way, great stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/balf11 Brian Formica

    Great premise. I wonder if it could be argued, as a retort, that beauty is sought out and used for the calming effects it can have (or similarly, how it can put us in a good mood). I think, if that were completely true, it would crumble away the point you’re making. As much as I wouldn’t want that, I can’t quite seem to see a counter-argument. Correct me if I’m wrong, please!

    • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.escalona Nicholas Escalona

      That is a base response to beauty, but it is not our only response, no matter what the hedonists say. Proven by this: that we will sacrifice our pleasure, our selves, for the sake of beauty.

    • Marc Barnes

      Though we could use beauty to improve our mood, we would recognize beauty even without this. For example: Saying “The Mona Lisa is beautiful” does not depend on some emotion of calm provided by the Mona Lisa. Thus it is not essential to our experience of the beautiful object that it provide us with a calming sensation (though it certainly is usually a part of the experience). Thus beauty is experienced primarily as an end in itself, and the emotions spring from that reality.

  • Gilles

    I don’t agree with this. I don’t fully comprehend what you’re saying so I hope I’m not way off or making points that are addressed.

    It seems to me that you’re saying that we love something because it’s useless. I would say that we could love something despite it’s uselessness, but not because it’s useless.

    I would challenge you to go up to a girl and tell her that you love her because she’s useless. Is that statement even true? Is she useless to you? I doubt it. You however could tell her that you love her for the very act of her being. That she doesn’t need to be useful for you to love her. There’s a big difference.

    As well, if God created us for no reason, why would the Church state that we are created to know, love, and serve God? Is the Church wrong? Is that not a “reason for our existence?” I’m confused.

    Along those lines, you said – and I agree somewhat – that we are useless to God. However I don’t think he created us to be useless, but he loves us despite our uselessness.

    You are either on the verge of making a good point, or make a few good points, but I think your premise is flawed from the start.

    • AttentionDeficitCatholic

      I think you are absolutely correct, and that is what Marc was getting at. We love that which is beautiful, not that which is useless; it is simply that when we love something for its beauty, we have no other use for it. A sunset is, in the end, a useless thing, but we love it for its beauty, in spite of its uselessness.

      God does not love us because we are useless, but it is the fact that He loves us in our uselessness that shows the depth of His love and how beautiful we are in His eyes. That is what Marc was saying with this post.

    • http://www.facebook.com/marcjohnpaul Marc Barnes

      Michelangelo did not love his Pieta “in spite of” its uselessness. He loved it for the simple reason that it was, that he had created it and found it good. To love something like this is to love it not in spite of its uselessness, but IN its very uselessness. And I’ve already told my girl that she’s utterly useless. I got a kiss.

      Now it’s true that we were created to know, love, and serve God. I would argue that this can be reduced, as St. Augustine reduced it, to simply “love”. And love, as I’ve said, revels in the useless. For how could we use our God? Our love for him cannot be contingent on anything he gives us, anything we want him for, any use we have of him. In the end, we must love God because he is our God, and we are his people. That’s it. We must love God as useless to us. (Not to say he IS useless to us, but that our love for him should strive to reach the same love he has for us, love content to receive NOTHING in return, and more than nothing — death on a cross.)

      Hope this helps!

      • Helpful

        I just told my girlfriend she was useless. I got a kiss too.

      • Philosophe

        I think that there is a valid point being made by both Marc and Giles. To bridge the gap, I would say that perhaps humans are unnecessary. We have uses, we are able to perform tasks and produce things, but God’s love (real love) is gratuitous. God created us, and loves us, for no reason than that He is love. We can do nothing for Him that He cannot do for Himself. God does not lack; He overflows. God has created us to receive, and ultimately learn to give, love. The person who has reached sainthood no longer desires anything but to love God. True love inspires self-sacrifice; it inspires the lover to pour themselves out for the beloved. God created us that He may pour Himself out upon us; clothing us with His glory, beauty, and joy. God does not force us to reciprocate His love, but He does offer Himself as a sacrifice so that we may come to see and to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth” (Ephesians 3:19) of the love of Christ. But I do agree with you Marc; in light of the thoroughly Utilitarian concept of “use” adopted by this modern age, humans are useless.

    • Poet and priest

      Try thinking of it in reverse: go up to your girl and tell her you love her because she’s useful. You won’t get a kiss.

      If we love (“love”) things because they are useful, one of these days we’ll try to use them. Need I note that this will be bad?

  • Laura

    Brought tears to my eyes! That God created us to know, love and serve Him but that He doesn’t NEED us to know, love and serve Him…that we are useless in the sense that He doesn’t actually need us, He just likes having us around…is so beautiful.

  • abutcherswife

    Thanks for your writing. I’m a recent follower…and relatively new Catholic. Coming from a Protestant background obsessed with ‘purpose-driven’ theology, in one fashion or another, this kind of thinking is quite helpful. How comforting to know I can just ‘be’…as John Milton wrote: “those also serve who only stand and wait”. Anywho, keep up the good work.

  • musiciangirl591

    write a book please! :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/jbmontgomery John Montgomery

      I’d buy that.

  • mfase

    Well said. that was, that was beautiful

  • Perica

    IMO best piece you written…

  • Elizabeth

    “We are the art of God, his beautiful ones, for our whole worth lies in the fact that he loves us…” Oh man. It’s like a knife in my heart. Thank you Marc!!!

  • Brigid

    TRUTH.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rose.bogolin.stone Rose Stone

    Marc… I love to surround surround myself with beautiful things that
    have no use and no real value (they are neither investments or
    collectables) other than they remind me of a person, place or event in
    my life. As an artist and photographer, I also capture more images than I
    could ever display, print, or sell. I just enjoy looking at life through that lens and freezing that moment in time.
    So I completely understand your theory between beauty and love, even though I’m not sure if I love something because it is beautiful or if I find something beautiful because I love it??? But
    my point in this is that I think the answer to the question “If there is a God, why did he create
    us?” pretty simple? God is a “creator” and being made in his
    image so are we driven to “create” and “procreate”. If someone were to
    ask me why I chose to give birth to one or all three of my beautiful children… I
    could not give a really “useful” reason. I couldn’t explain it anymore
    than I can explain to my husband why I need to put one more “useless”
    object on display in my house! In fact we shouldn’t have children for a
    “useful” reason. It would make us appear needy, or worse… I think if
    we are looking for a “use” for children…it becomes too easy to say “I
    have no use for this child”… couldn’t God say the same? So I do agree
    with you completely that we exist because of Love and through that love God finds us just as beautiful as every mother finds her child beautiful and that is the only reason I really have for loving my children. It’s just pretty simple to me… HOWEVER, I won’t go so
    far as to say your piece was “useless” because you spent all the time
    putting together those lovely words, beautiful images, etc… I love it! (as I love all wonderful things you encourage me to think about)

  • http://www.facebook.com/duskyb Jen Schafer

    A share-worthy post today :D loved it

  • Fisherman

    HOW DID YOU KNOW I LOVE DEGAS SO MUCH?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bingo.kildare Kevin Weiss

    ST 1.19.2 Whether God wills things apart from Himself?
    Respondeo:
    “Hence we see that every agent, in so far as it is perfect and in act, produces its like. It pertains, therefore, to the nature of the will to communicate as far as possible to others the good possessed; and especially does this pertain to the divine will, from which all perfection is derived in some kind of likeness. Hence, if natural things, in so far as they are perfect, communicate their good to others, much more does it appertain to the divine will to communicate by likeness its own good to others as much as possible. Thus, then, He wills both Himself to be, and other things to be; but Himself as the end, and other things as ordained to that end; inasmuch as it befits the divine goodness that other things should be partakers therein.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Stetter/20914798 Kevin Stetter

    great post, marc!

    when are we getting lunch?

  • Thew

    There’s a great line about this in CS Lewis’ Perelandra “We are infinitely superfluous!” sung as praise to God.

  • Becca

    The feeling I got from reading this article was so very beautiful

  • Nadja

    Oh Marc, sometimes you turn a phrase in such a way as to leave me breathless. I once wrote a post about love, beauty and creativity, and how they reveal our likeness to God, but so much of what I was trying to say was in this post of yours.

  • Beth Turner

    Only a minor grammatical quibble. I looked at this sentence for a while, trying to figure out what was wrong with it: “It is used, and the beautiful has no more to do with “use” then, well, then love has to do with use.” I believe you may have meant “than, well, than.”

    Hits home coming from a family in which “I do nice things for you because it’s good for me” poured a creeping despair over loving acts.

    • Montague

      That is why, with all due respects, I think Buddhists are lazy. In a manner of speaking. They don’t believe that charity is humanly possible (well, it’s not but with God all things are possible!)

      • Sophias_Favorite

        Eh? Buddhists do, indeed, believe that charity is humanly possible. Have you heard of “karuna”? It even shares an Indo-European root with “caritas”. It plays out exactly like Christian charity. At least in Buddhism based on the Mahayana sutras—and generalizing about Buddhists based on Theravada is like generalizing about Christians based on Calvinism.

  • Montague

    This raises the question of whether something beautifully preforming its function is beautiful in the same way; for, we can consider, say a knife: the knife which cuts meat with ease and grace may be considered beautiful, like a tiny sword; whereas one that cuts with less function is also in a sense unbeautiful, because it is useless.

    I think you are equivocating between good-in-itself or good-as-end-of-good as opposed to good-because-useless.

    In a perfect world there is no enmity between utility and beauty. Good function and good ends are beautiful as well as useful.

  • Liam Wells

    This entire post reminded me of Chesterton noting in Heretics that some people divide the people of the world into the boring and the bored without ever realising that the superior qualities always rested in the boring.

    A beautiful piece. Thank you.

  • guest

    You write, “That which is beautiful is good in and of itself”. I would argue the converse and assert that which is GOOD is beautiful in and of itself. Mother Teresa didn’t particularly possess overwhelming physical attributes of beauty; yet she was stunningly beautiful. Why? Because she was so deeply united to our good God. Her selfless, humble love, her kindness and compassion, indeed her strong goodness caused beauty to shine right out of her. In the same way, Christ had “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that
    we should desire him” (Isaiah 53.2). Yet He is the most beautiful and majestic ONE of all. Why? Because He is so good!!!
    Even as He was enduring the agony of crucifixion, He poured out forgiveness and love! God must be beautiful to love with a love that strong, that good, that selfless,that holy, that noble, that pure, a love so great that all the evil and brutality in the world cannot begin to touch it, that is the love of Jesus Christ, that is the absolute goodness of our God. And it is His goodness that makes Him beautiful.
    In short, Not everything the eye beholds as beautiful is good.But true goodness is always beautiful in and of itself.

    • AttentionDeficitCatholic

      Good and Beauty are one and the same, for both are the same Being. So I would say that both you and Marc are correct here.

      • Miss Doyle

        Or even that the good, the beautiful and the true are three roads which all lead to God.

        • Sophias_Favorite

          Aquinas puts it that the beautiful is the good knowable by the senses, while the true is the good knowable by the intellect—and the good, in Greek philosophy, is God (“good” in Greek thought is “a being”, with Goodness Itself being identical with Being Itself; evil is merely a privation or absence of some good being).

          • Miss Doyle

            Which is why when we talk about hell and its anguish we are referring to the absence of God – bear so near and yet so far, by our choice.

  • jp

    Amazing post, Marc.

  • James H, London

    “I write this like a drunk, and it’s time to sober up.”

    DON’T YOU DARE!

  • Tally Marx

    This is my favorite post of yours thus far, and I have been reading your work for years.

  • stephanie

    This is one of those posts that I wish was 10 pages longer.

  • vman24601

    I find this a thought provoking blog post and I enjoyed it a lot. I forwarded this to a friend (who’s currently considering Christianity) and he came up with an lengthy rely with blunt criticism that I wanted to share:

    “That is a really good post. I really liked everything until they started to connect it to God. I’ll have to think about whether I like that analogy. But yes, I appreciate aesthetically pleasing things. Actually never mind, I think there is a better/more correct way of looking at some of the arguments they brought up.

    I agree that something that is beautiful has intrinsic value. However, there is derivable value which lies in the momentary sensation you get when you’re stimulated by something beautiful (visual, audio, olfactory, etc. all 5 senses). Whether it’s a Picasso, [girl on YouTube], the Grand Canyon, etc.—think about what you’re feeling as you experience those things. You might feel awed, nostalgic, inspired…perhaps admiration for something that is beautiful in a way you never thought possible….maybe respect for the person who could unbelievably create such a beautiful thing. e.g A picture of yourself when you were a little kid is simplistically beautiful because it reminds you of a happy period in your life and by looking at the picture, you feel happy as you recall those memories. In any case, the feelings you get when you see something that’s beautiful is quite pleasurable–your brain is fascinated and you are enthralled. Beauty begets emotional gratification.

    Therefore, the argument should extends to porn as something that can be beautiful as well. Eroticism can be beautiful. It inspires pleasurable emotions and sexual desires which are unlike any other. Of course, you can watch porn and just masturbate. However, you can also look, be sexually aroused, and appreciate the feelings and emotions which a nude human body can really inspire. Taking it even further, videos of porn can be beautiful because as the watcher, it is enthralling for you to imagine the pleasure and intimacy that those who are performing the sexual acts might be experiencing. You probably won’t experience the exact same pleasurable emotions but it is at least blissful.

    Beauty is not useless. A true artist will say that a beautiful painting invokes emotions which he cannot describe and yet, are very much real. Porn–and by proxy, sexual intercourse with someone–is beautiful because of the pleasurable feelings it enables you to experience. Beauty is useful because of the sensations it creates for the audience of the experience. Now, you can argue about what truly makes something beautiful (symmetry, novelty, etc.) and how beauty is in the eye of the beholder but that is outside the scope of this argument. The argument here is only that beauty is not useless. The person who wrote that article obviously does not know how to look at art and appreciate beauty. They really just wanted to force their argument together so it fits into the last part of their analogy about our purpose and what God’s intentions are. I also don’t agree with their argument that love is useless and that love would still be the same if you strip away all emotions associated with it. Love is essentially the cumulative residual reactions to the pleasurable experiences and emotions you have for someone. Without that foundation, your love for that person cannot exist.

    This leads me to draw a different analogy for the reason why we’re on this Earth. We are created in God’s image. God is graceful and beautiful. As good Christians, if you live your life fully in Christ, you are living out his intentions. You can say being subservient and serving God makes Him selfish. However, let’s say your neighbor sees that you are a man of God, you are successful, and you have a great family. This neighbor will have admiration and adoration for how you live your life. A life which is only possible because of abilities given to you by God, and it is Him who made you beautiful. Beautiful so that you can invoke positive emotions from those around you, maybe from even non-believers. Your neighbor might be inspired to follow or strengthen his faith in God, and in turns better his life. So you are not only serving God, you are serving those around you. God is unselfish because through you, he is able to better the lives of others. You are helping them feel happy when they’re around you and you also might make them realize what beautiful a life it would be to live for Christ. So beauty truly has its purpose and application, and so do the children of God. ”

    • kristen inDallas

      the distinction I think is between something “being” beautiful and therefore “being” useless with it being seen by another as beautiful, and therefore not suitable for “use”. A person who views the youtube girl the way you describe may well find her beautiful, but only insomuch as he doesn’t try to use her. The same can be applied to sunsets, while most don’t see a use for them and also find them beautiful, a certain kind of mind could look at a sunset and think “I can use an image of this to sell condominiums in south florida” And there are degrees, yes we probably all fail in seeing anything as completely useless, and we all could be better at sensing a thing’s true beauty, but we get at it in degrees.
      Of course everything in this world is ultimately useless to God, and therefore ultimately beautiful (the sunset and the you-tube girl), but each individual may percieve different amounts of beauty around him, as he also chooses to what extent he is willing to use that beautiful thing. That’s why we say beauty lays in the eye of the beholder, but really this article makes me think it actually lays in the heart/will of the beholder, which is a pretty awesome thought if you think about it.

  • Josepha

    The fascinating paradox about beauty and love as useless, is also that they are completely necessary and irreplaceable for a human existence.

  • Rachel Cantrell

    I have no words. This is an incredible post that is an answer to my prayers. Thank you Marc

  • http://www.facebook.com/jpelsue Joel Pelsue

    Actually . . .though this is an interesting twist, and it affirms that beauty is not ‘functional’ in the typical sense. . . using the term ‘useless’ to describe beauty tacitly affirms the modernistic approach of measuring the value of things based upon there function or ‘usefulness’. Your terms affirm the very dynamic you are trying to argue against.

    I would argue that it beauty is extremely useful in all of life, but not to a strict utilitarian -who is in fact denigrating all of creation by only using ‘function’ as a measure of value. That is not God’s measuring stick, nor his economy.
    The problem of our society is not that we need to see art as useless. rather, we need to quit seeing EVERYTHING in terms of their ‘use’ or usefulness.

    • Thomas Herge

      This very point was what seemed problematic for me. To be specific, something is good and beautiful if it’s end is in God. The problem of utilitarianism is the finite teleology. From that perspective, many things we love are useless. But if we truly love them in a right way, we do not love them for themselves but rather in that their source and telos is the Divine (under a particular spiritual theology which I am finding quite useful–if I love a pond for itself, my love is stunted, but if I love it since it is from and for God that it is and that I love it, then the love is infinitized and divinized.) Of course, this in no way contradicts what Marc said, since the very fact of being of something is fully contingent on the divine Being and Will, whereupon if we love something simply for its being, we love it because it is from and for God. It is different from loving the thing for itself. This is most clear in devotional and liturgical art (the Pieta and the Requiem), since they are actually designed with the purpose of lifting the mind to love of the Divine, Divine worship, prayer of various kinds (eg for the dead), and in some sense these could be called “useful”, but in these cases, the art is a co-creation of man in which the re-forming of created things is imprinted with man’s intentions of the Divine source and end. In these cases, the intention is obvious, and they should serve also as a reminder that in every created thing the same intention has been placed by the Creator Himself.

    • http://wasteyourtime.mtgames.org/ Scaevola

      I think that Marc is trying to express the distinction in final cause found in Aristotle–things that are sought for the sake of something else, and things that are sought for their own sake. The former are useful–we use them in order to get that something else we really want. The latter are useless–things like beauty and happiness. These are what one seeks through the means of useful things.

      With that reading, it’s not so much an affirmation as a subversion of the modern idiom.

  • Finicky Cat

    And think of babies – who is more “useless” than a baby? And who in the family is more doted upon and cared for and adored? Babies are ornaments. Babies are beautiful.

    One of my very favourite posts, Marc.

    • LR

      I used to wonder how some people could say ‘I hate babies!’.. They’re so messy and a ‘pain in the a*s’.

      Now I realize, they’re ones who are ‘not-right’. It’s a free world, yes, and each one is entitled to one’s opinion; but like all things in the material world, there are people who are more ‘defective’ than others. And it is for such that Christ came into the world.

  • K.L.B.

    I reckon that’s why I keep my cameras (film & digital) equipment & musical instruments still. Maybe that’s why I like to drink, too. Pleasure. Oh well. But I recall once, as a teen, asking my dear mother, “if there was a machine to which we could connect ourselves, which could forever give us pleasure, would you connect yourself to it?” I shall ne’er forget her reply: “No.” Her response astounded me, so I asked her to tell me why. She said that after a time, pleasure would be no longer pleasure. That is, what was once pleasure would no longer be pleasurable. In later years I came to understand she spoke of desensitization. In a greater view – a somewhat scientific one – we know that pleasure comes about through energy, and that in this life, at least, there is no perpetual motion machine, e.g., there is no endless source of energy. Entropy tells us this. Things tend toward chaos & disorder. And our bellies tell us this – at least our brains ~should~ tell our bellies. When we eat, that electrochemical signal fires off, coursing through neurons, synapses & neural pathways and says… STOP EATING! YOU’RE FULL! Satiety. There was a porn movie some years ago which had a rather intriguing, if not appropriate title – “Insatiable.” Psychologically, we understand there are driving factors in someone’s behaviors. We seek satisfaction, and the Rolling Stones sang about it with their years-ago his of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” So what is it? We want it and can’t have it? We strive for it, yet it eludes us? The Scriptures tell us that “You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Is there a pleasure – an eternal one – about which we do not know, and which we seek, being satisfied temporarily with the cheap imitation here in this mortality?

    • Veronica

      I love what you said about desensitization–so true. When we pursue that which has an end, our pleasure comes to an end. However, the infinite love of God is (just that) INFINITE. Consequently, Jesus’ love, manifested in His sacrifice on the cross (dying for our sins and being so pure and blameless that hell could not hold Him), is that answer to your final question. There’s a song called “Only You Can Satisfy,” which speaks of God’s great love. The cheap imitation of love which we seek in this love is merely that, an imitation or reflection, of the deep and enduring love that we receive from Christ. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known,” -1 Corinthians 13:12. That is true love, that love we will know in full upon His return. That is fulfilling bread and water. That is sustaining life, and infinite love at that.

  • Varenka v

    It amazes me how you get to such clear, obvious, bright conclusions that I have never thought before or seen anywhere!

    This post is awesome, beautiful! Thank you. I’ll have to print it because I want to read it again and again.

  • http://twitter.com/EdmundMitchell Edmund Mitchell

    Have you read “The Evidential Power of Beauty” by Thomas Dubay?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1125166276 John C. Wright

    Please reread CS Lewis’ PERELANDRA, because there is a section in the ‘Great Dance’ at the end which recites a very similar thought to this.

  • Louis

    Hi Marc, thanks so much for your thoughtful post. I really enjoyed it. I have to disagree though with the premise that things, humans included, can be intrinsically or innately “good,” as you term it. Nothing is good, has value or worth simply because it exists or is being. We and things derive our value and worth from being consumed and used — redemption. The “good” and the value and worth of the beautiful is created when I visually consume it, is dependent upon how aesthetically tasty it is to me, is produced through the work it does on me emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise. Just a few thoughts.

    • Miss Doyle

      Nope Louis! Have to point out to you that your reading of beauty is inherently tinged with utilitarianism – something is only good if it’s useful to me. Objective beauty, the beauty that Marc describes is one which is not something which relies on human experience to exist or interpret.
      That’s why we say that even the most disabled, bed ridden person is good, and therefore beautiful. They do not derive their value or worth from what they can contribute to the world.
      When something tastes ‘good’ to you, it’s subjective.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothyputnam Timothy Putnam

    Is it bad that the thing I notice most in this post is that Facebook has shared this almost 4000 times, and Google+ has shared it 14. Speaking of useless.

  • Sean Patrick

    Love it.
    Right on! I don’t have ADD. I have a Catholic mind. Thanks be to God.

  • Harry Dyck

    Why are you nutters so afraid of confronting the fact that if your Jesus was a man, as your religion teaches, then he had the same bodily functions as any other man. Which means that Jesus walked around the Middle East belching, farting, defecating and having erections. And if he had erections, you know what he did with that, right?

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaahhaahahhahah!!!!

    Picture that the next time you’re deep in prayer!!

    • Jacob

      TROLL IN THE DUNGEON!!!! TROLL IN THE DUNGEON!!!!

  • oldebyrd

    I never thought of the human body an inherently pornographic. I don’t think most people do. What I do find to be pornographic is the degredation of the human body by rape, intimidation, disrespect, mutilation or manipulation. The fact that we not only allow it but sometimes hold it up as art or harmless in the name of art or personal freedom is wrong and sinful.

    • Rose

      The human body is NOT inherently pornographic. That was Marc’s point – that pornography takes the beauty of the human form and turns it into something to be used.

  • http://twitter.com/lovellespice lovellespice

    someone has watched scruton’s “why beauty matters” ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sherrytex Sherry Antonetti

    I love this…as an aside, I just posted on Barefoot and Pregnant upon seeing her newborn son, the comment, “He’s beautiful.” before I read this…and the newly born are in fact, useless in the way you mean. They are beauty before the world wears them down with use.

  • Larisse

    I have a question though.. if humans are utterly useless, where does work fit in the picture? Does work not make use of man for an end (which is not himself)? Great article, nonetheless :)

    • JosephC

      I guess that depends on whether you’re Marxist or not. :) Work never makes use of man, man makes use of work. Work is the means to an end: namely, that of sustenance and survival. But no one wants a workaholic husband, wife or friend – such a person has no sense of humor or fun, and is harder to love precisely because they are being used by work. Which ties with the author’s point.

      Maybe you were expecting the author’s response…I hope I haven’t let down expectations!

      Great article, thank you for writing!

  • Master Po

    As Lao Tzu has written:
    “When people see beauty, they think, “that’s beautiful”.

    Thinking of something as beautiful makes you think other things are ugly.

    Calling something “good” forces you to call some other things “evil.”

    The ideas “difficult” and “easy” support each other.

    “Long” and “short” define each other.

    “High” creates “low”

    “Tone” creates “noise”

    “Before” creates “after”

    “Have” creates “don’t have”

    This is why the Sage acts without effort and teaches without words.

    New things are created and the Sage just accepts them.

    Things fade away and the Sage accepts that too.

    A Sage can have things without feeling they “own” them.

    The Sage does things without putting an emotional stake into the outcome.

    The task is accomplished, but the Sage doesn’t seek credit or take pride in the
    accomplishment.

    Because the Sage is not attached to the accomplishment, the accomplishment lasts
    forever.”

  • mary snustad

    Another beautiful post! Confirms for me that the embryo, fetus, and baby are utterly useless….which confirms why abortion is the biggest sin of our time!
    When I have good friends and family members justifing the murder of children…it is then that I realize just how willingly dependent I am on my life affirming Catholic faith and religion!

  • silee2

    Beautiful Marc, Father Barron says the same thing, doing leisurely things are useless, you do them because of the act itself, like spending time with a friend or loved one, he also says that the Mass is the most “useless” thing of all. This also of course echoes JPII’s Love and Responsibility’s theories of love and utlilitarisim.

  • Blake Adams

    This article was beautiful.

    Therefore, useless(?).

    P.S. I found it very useful. In fact, I found it good (beneficial). And if it is beautiful, it is good.

  • Blake Adams

    My God is beautiful.

  • mojo

    I am so happy to be useless as your mother sweetie.

  • anglicanboyrichard

    You write so far above the average mind that I might dare say it is “useless” stuff and further “useless” to comment on it. But I will anyway. God must have planted some colossal and significant piece of His universality within you that most of us tend to miss through the day by day routines of life. You just could not come up with stuff like this on your own. The irony of it all is, in your “uselessness” of being His penned instrument, He used you this night, not just here but in so many of your posts, to bring beauty and thoughtfulness, and yes, an almost twisted humor at times, all simply to remind many of us to shut the hell up and “be”–be the person God made us all along to be. Be useless. Be works of His art. Thanks for the reminder, Marc. Perhaps this is why St Mary of Bethany was said to have “chosen the best part.” St Martha thought her sister was “useless” and did not realize that was the highest calling. God bless.

  • In carmel

    It is the most worthy compliment and only the most highest form of human thought could ever comprehend it.

  • Bella

    My husband is “useful” to me in many, many ways – he makes the money in our family, provides the “muscle ” when I need it, provides a leg up when I get on a horse, etc. It is not a question of utility OR uselessness; but utility finds its place WITHIN our larger covenant of love. Pope Benedict teaches us this over and over and over and over, but people never get it. Look at his first encyclical: it is not, he says, Eros OR agape but BOTH, and in fact erode wio agape degenerates, and agape without Eros gives us just a mathematical, prime mover kind of God. You can find hundreds of other examples in his writing (not faith OR reason, not individual OR community, not nature OR grace, etc. etc. etc.)

    And some posters misunderstand Plato. In the Republic he did NOT say the highest good was the good in itself, as opposed to something good in its consequences. he SPECIFICALLY said the highest good was a Thid way, GOOD IN ITSELF **AND***GOOD IN ITS CONSEQUENCES.

    Both B16 and JPII spent a LOT of time trying to break our minds away from the trap of dualism, of either/ or, into a joyous both/and.

  • M-C

    I don’t agree that pornography is removed from beauty simply because it is useful. Beauty is not an end in itself. It is to lead us to God through meditation and conversion of heart. Many things that are useful can be beautiful, like a building, for example, or the trumpet sound used to announce the presence of the king, or the Gospel. Beauty is not an end in itself. I think what you mean by useful is that it leads us to a material or natural end.


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