Blaise Pascal was a true Renaissance man. A Frenchman who lived during the 1600s, Pascal was a mathematician, inventor, physicist and philosopher. And right before his death, at the too-young age of 39, he was writing a book that was posthumously published as Pensees (which translates to Thoughts).
Pensees is comprised of ideas that Pascal had jotted down in a notebook. As a whole, they show a man who thought deeply about God and his Christian faith and how these elements intersected with life. Take this passage about the importance of finding God:
There are only three sorts of people: (1) those who have found God and serve him; (2) those who are busy serving him and have not found him; (3) those who live without either seeking or finding him. The first are reasonable and happy; the last are foolish and unhappy; those is the middle are unhappy and reasonable.
Reading excerpts from Pensees, there was one passage that really got me thinking—and it led me to create a rule to live by in the new year. Pascal talks about our lives being split into three different levels or realms. In his words, they include:
- The Spiritual Realm
- The Intellectual Realm
- The Physical Realm
In Making Sense of it All, Pascal and the Meaning of Life, Thomas V. Morris points out that the first and lowest level is the physical realm. The intellectual realm is one level higher and is “the domain of analytical thought and reasoning.” He adds that “the highest level is that of the spiritual realm. Access to this reality, comes through what Pascal metaphorically called ‘the heart’. It is the realm of charity, piety, and true communion with God.”
I agree that the spiritual level is easily the most important of the three. Yet, that doesn’t mean we should neglect the other two. When our lives are balanced with activities that speak to all three realms of our existence, we lead more deeply contented and fulfilling lives.
- The Physical Realm. I’ve always believed that the body is a vehicle for the soul—and to honor the soul, we need to keep that body healthy. That means a regular exercise routine which not only helps us feel better but has a way of cleansing the mind. Run, jog, walk, dance, swim—just move. The physical realm also involves touch and staying physically connected (kisses, hugs) to the ones we love.
- The Intellectual Realm. It’s good to keep our minds, and imagination, sharp. And that means occasionally challenging our existing notions of life. Read a heady non-fiction book, watch a documentary, visit a museum. I read the New York Times to see what’s going on in the world and remind myself of how different the lives and experiences of others are from my own.
- The Spiritual Realm. This is the easy one. To connect with your spiritual center, you can engage in a number of activities. Pray, meditate, chant, read spiritual literature, take a walk on the beach or in the woods (which allows you to check off two boxes). We need to feed our spirit and soul regularly and, as I’ve said before, that means starting a regular spiritual practice.
Wishing you a happy new year—may you find the time to give thanks, bring light to someone else’s life and spread joy to those around you!
Want 3 more rules to live by in the new year? A while back, I wrote a piece on Napoleon Hill and his unique, late-life take on the key to living a happy life. To see the full story, click on the Continue button below.