Is it alright to pursuit learning even when brave soldiers are dying in war? Is it alright to pursue knowledge and beauty when humanity is in danger of going to hell?
Some people claim that when in war, one’s life ought to be only national, and in all circumstances it only ought to be religious. There is sense in these words. I mean, one is supposed to love one’s country and love God at all times, right? However, even if it ought to be such way, it’s just “not going to happen.” It’s simply impossible for a human being to concentrate in one thing and live its life based on it until it dies. If one thinks about it, one cannot ever be perfect in any sense. When a soldier gets to nearer to the front lines, the soldier’s thoughts about his country diminishes and he thinks about his life: his family, his past and his present. His head would be most probably filled with thoughts of returning alive rather than saving the nation.
War therefore is like most duties, maybe something “worth dying for but not living for.” The only One whom one is to live for is for God. All living will be accepted if it’s a living that glorifies Him. As I see it, food, work, knowledge, beauty, and more, are all gifts from God. If one uses these gifts in a way that pleases God and to His Glory, then one is not doing any wrong. Like Lewis writes, “All…. Merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest: all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not.”
One does not have to forget though that the gifts are not good for themselves, but that the One who gave the gifts is good and therefore they are good. Thus, some gifts are never more valuable than others in front of God’s eyes. Sweeping the church can please God just as much as composing a rhapsody. I believe it’s the heart that matters; a heart that wants glory, a heart that wants to please God (from The weight of Glory”) is what’s appreciated. Everyone has different talents and vocations, but all of them can be used to praise the Lord.
Because the world has been tainted with sin, sometimes knowledge has become more of a necessity than something to pursue for the sake of it. It would be almost impossible to survive without any knowledge at all. All kinds of knowledge are used in all areas of life, thus to survive one has to learn.
However, there are certain things that interfere with a learning that’s “pure” and “humble.” One of them is excitement. I suppose Lewis means by excitement, something like sudden caring, when one was to care all along. For example, Lewis writes that war has not brought a “new situation” but has “aggravated an old one.” Humanity has always been on danger of heading the wrong path, but war has merely brought awareness of it. So one must always do the best one can; one must carpe diem all the days of one’s life.
The second problem is frustration. For example, sometimes I get frustrated because twenty four hours a day doesn’t seem enough for all the activities I want to finish. How much so then for the people who frustrate over the fact that there is a limited time for learning and will never be able to finish knowing all knowledge? This is an inevitable fate, though, and dwelling on misery is not going to make it fade away. One should simply, rejoice in the present, and leave the future in God’s compassionate hand.
The last disturber is fear, fear of death and pain. Fear is in a sense, good. It reminds humans of their mortality, but that does not mean that humans are to succumb to fear of death and pain. Jesus has triumphed over those. It’s natural to fear, but not to fear all the time to the point of not doing anything but hide.
My own conclusion then is this: Pursuing knowledge and some other activities can be a necessity, but above all, they are gifts of grace and love. Just like Solomon says in the Bible, "Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God." (Eclesiastes 5:18-19) It's alright to enjoy the gifts of life, but one must do so properly. This is a hard task, but if it is done so, then one will be able to glorify God.