The mind that is not seeking to learn, to love, to live well, to accomplish various duties, becomes an empty wasteland. For a while, one can people the wasteland with all sorts of diversions--hours of “entertainment,” of watching television or movies; of listening to purposeless music; of playing games; of endless chatter with others; of eating and drinking; of restless carousing for a paramour; of shopping to shop; of frenetic money-making in one form or another. The empty soul tries to stuff its emptiness with whatever it can find to divert itself from the truth of its reality: the mind that is not seeking truth, learning, applying itself to duties, has become a spiritual and mental void. And that void tastes of hell.
The human mind must, according to its nature and purpose, love well and seek truth. The intellect needs to discover and contemplate reality in order to fulfill itself. The passions need to be focused on achieving good, and particularly on right loving and energetic fulfillment of life’s demands and duties. When the mind is not properly engaged, it becomes unhappy, sick, malcontented, restless, anxious, depressed, destructive, violent, obsessive, fearful. The soul that will not spend energies seeking truth and doing good becomes, over time--as diversions fail to divert--a haunt of jackals and wild beasts, of demonic forces over which one has ever-decreasing control. Into the empty mind come destructive, dominating forces that gradually take over, leaving one disintegrating under their power, which effectively severs the soul from its grounding in God and in reality. This is spiritual death.
I see these forces at work in my friend Mark, who is diagnosed as suffering from depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These clinical terms do little to assess the real problem: his mind is emptying of truth, his soul not engaged in doing good. The divine presence, the Spirit, which grounds and illuminates and enriches, has been ignored and effectively shut out of his existence. So what happens? Gradually Mark is becoming divorced from reality and living in a kind of hell of imagined reality, a hell of darkness, depression, waves of anxiety, obsessive thoughts, stupid compulsions such as repetitive hand-washing. His spiritually empty soul is indeed becoming a wasteland, and as he disintegrates into the emptiness of self-enclosed-self, he becomes increasingly unwilling and unable to accomplish anything good or beneficial. He is dying mentally and spiritually, and soon, physically.
Mark is an American, and his soul is a portrait of our culture, of us as a people. We have become a mental and spiritual wasteland. Having ignored the divine presence, having removed God in various forms from our lives, what is left? Having failed to concentrate, to focus the mind on acquiring truth for its own sake, and to love and do what is good and right, what has happened to us? Many Americans spend a large portion of each day in mindless entertainment, in pursuing various lusts, in shopping, in social chatter, in gambling, in sexual fantasies, in viewing sports, and so on. And many Americans spend many hours of their lives under alcohol and drug influences. Our country is spiritually and mentally dying. Education becomes increasingly about trivial pursuits, bits and pieces of information whirling around in bored and boring minds. Some persons revolt, engaging in senseless violence. Some persons spiral into depression. Others live anxious and worried lives, endlessly, as if on an unending treadmill of joylessness. America is a portrait of spiritual death.
Having turned from God, from the Spirit of truth and of genuine love meant to fill and guide our minds, we are a decaying, deadening, dying culture filled with human beings suffering all sorts of spiritual and mental illnesses, or just engaged in mindless diversions--intended to prevent people from recognizing their emptiness and the futility of their lives, and turning around to the source of life. Our self-inflated politicians can talk endlessly, and order all manner of policies to be effected, and pass volumes of excessively detailed laws, but they cannot prevent the decent of America into the wasteland of spiritual and mental death. Indeed, they share in the same wasteland, whether they know it or not. For our political and social leaders seem oblivious of the causes of our decay. Human being without the Divine is destructive and endlessly unhappy. America is killing itself: unborn, children, adults, elderly. We are killing ourselves and others. America has become a spiritual-mental wasteland.