ST BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX
(1090 – 1153)
It is natural for human beings to desire what they think to be better than what they already have, and to be satisfied with nothing that lacks that special quality they wish for. Thus, if it is for her beauty that a man loves his wife, he will cast longing eyes after a fairer woman. If he is clad in a rich garment, he will covet a costlier one; and no matter how rich he may be he will envy a man richer than himself. Do we not see people every day, endowed with vast estates, who keep on joining field to field, dreaming of wider boundaries for their lands? Those who dwell in palaces are ever adding house to house, continually building up and tearing down, remodelling and changing. Men in high places are driven by insatiable ambition to clutch at still greater prizes. And nowhere is there any final satisfaction, because nothing there can be defined as absolutely the best or highest.
But it is natural that nothing should content people’s desires but the very best, as they reckon it. Is it not, then, mad folly always to be craving for things which can never quiet our longings, much less satisfy them? No matter how many such things they have, they are always lusting after what they have not; never at peace, they sigh for new possessions. Discontented, they spend themselves in fruitless toil, and find only weariness in the evanescent and unreal pleasures of the world. In their greediness, they count all that they have clutched as nothing in comparison with what is beyond their grasp, and lose all pleasure in their actual possessions by longing after what they have not, yet covet. No one can ever hope to own all things. Even the little that one does possess is got only with toil and is held in fear; since all are certain to lose what they have when God's day, appointed though unrevealed, shall come. But the perverted will struggles towards the ultimate good by devious ways, yearning after satisfaction, yet led astray by vanity and deceived by wickedness. Ah, if you wish to attain to the consummation of all desire, so that nothing unfulfilled will be left, why weary yourself with fruitless efforts, running hither and thither, only to die long before the goal is reached?