America's heroin epidemic—and what lies beneath it
But Percy was also thinking of a deeper unhappiness, one that occurs in any place and in any age because it stems from our human nature. “To be born and to live,” he said in one interview, paraphrasing Pascal, “is to be dislocated.” This primordial pain of being “lost in the cosmos” lies beneath and reinforces all the proximal difficulties of modern life. Faced with this dual malaise – or maybe, to not face it at all – “the pursuit of happiness becomes the pursuit of diversion.” Tabloids, opioids…whatever pleasurable diversion or diverting pleasure it might be, we increase the dosage, trying to squelch what David Foster Wallace once called a “gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.”
Beneath all the facts and figures, this epidemic ravaging my hometown – and yours soon, if not already – comes down to this unhappiness. It’s a hurt that goes deeper than any heroin needle, down into what makes us human: an innate desire so big and so relentless that nothing in this world could ever hope to satisfy it.
Matthew Becklo is a husband and father-to-be, amateur philosopher, and cultural commentator at Aleteia and Word on Fire. His writing has been featured in First Things, The Dish, and Real Clear Religion.