As part of my carpentry course at Saint Paul College, we watched the Ken Burns documentary on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. Extraordinary architectural achievements aside, Frank Lloyd Wright provides us an example of one who had a rather “natural” view of life.
What struck me most about Wright was that he seemed to do anything that pleased him. In fact, only the things that pleased him. One example of this was made manifest through his marriages.
Wright first married Catherine Tobin and after 6 children fell out of love with her. The children, he said, had taken too much of her focus and time. Even though Catherine wouldn’t divorce him, Wright turned to another woman -the wife of a neighbor, Mamah Cheney- to solve his problems. Even though Wright had been married for just about 20 years, he and Mrs. Cheney eloped to Europe. They later moved into a house in Wisconsin, called Taliesin. It was there that Mrs. Cheney was murdered by a servant. In 1922, Wright’s first wife finally gave him a divorce. She had loved him, and had hoped he would return. After waiting the required year after a divorce, Wright married Maude "Miriam" Noel in 1923. Things didn’t turn out so good for Wright in this marriage either, and while still married to Maude, he and Olga Hinzenburg moved in together in 1925. Wright officially married Olga in 1928 after going through divorce proceedings with Maude.
It is hard to imagine such a life- until we realize where Wright is coming from. He once said something like: “You have to live for the now; it is the most important thing.”
The example of Frank Lloyd Wright provides us Christians with a good example of what happens to one when he looks within himself instead of to God, his Creator for how to live life. This thinking stems from a view of “self law” or the belief that ultimate authority rests with the individual. Really, then, what Wright had was a view of existentailism. His mere existence determined how he would make choices and choose to live his life.
For the Christian, here are some responses to existentialism.
True happiness, purpose, and fulfillment isn’t found in doing whatever one wishes or whatever makes one feel good in a given situation. Rather it is found in glorifying Christ, and this often consists of doing the exact opposite thing one feels in his human nature like doing. But it is the only way by which we may live a meaningful, purposeful, joyful life. How do we glorify Christ? Consider the following verses:
John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
John 15:8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit;
John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
Abiding(which requires brokeness/obedience) leads to – Glorification of God, which leads to – True Purpose and Joy
Instead of living in a way that will bring me the most pleasure, happiness, NOW at this moment of existence, we have joy and purpose in abiding in Him.
Another response to existentialism for the Christian is that God tells us to “Set your minds on things above, not on things of the earth.” (Colossians 3:2). Instead of getting caught up in this “vapor,” we are called to look beyond this world and its temporary pleasures. We are reminded that there are greater things to consider than to simply view life through “natural” eyes. There is a day when all will be judged for what they did in this life, and for this we are reminded to “not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Indeed how easy it is to live life microscopically, losing the forest for a tree. But let us strive to live each moment for Him, with an eternal perspective “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”
What would your responses be to existentialism?