One of the biggest things I remember about Thomas Aquinas and his Suma Theologica is his time spent on the concept of existence. He wondered what exactly is well, is. What does it mean to exist. What does it mean to be. What does it mean to exist in light of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to exist in light of God. What does it mean to be.
Recently, I’ve turned my kiddos on to the show Tiny Tune Adventures. Tiny Toons ran for just a few years in the 1990’s and were replaced by Animaniacs! (which is a whole ‘nother post). Tiny Toons consisted of Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation) their friends Plucky Duck and Hampton Pig and others who learned what it meant to be a carton star at Acme Looniversity. Each of the classic Warner Brother’s characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, taught at the school.
One episode of Tiny Toons Bab’s bunny was searching for a mentor. There were no female cartoon characters she could learn from. Until she found one from the ’30’s. Yet this female cartoon star no longer was around. Bab’s soon learned from Bugs that cartoon characters need laughter in order to exist and stay young. In order to be they must live off of laughter. And so Babs had a film festival of this cartoon character from the 30’s and soon people began laughing. And low and behold, the character appeared young and refreshed.
What does this have to do with Aquinas?
“What does it mean to exist?” That is what Aquinas asked. Cartoon characters apparently exist for laughter. They exist to help people laugh and in that the character continues to exist and stay young. Aquinas looked at what it meant to exist in Christ, what it mean to truly exist in God.
This is quite different from what Tiny Toons was saying. To exist is to just make others laugh. But what does it truly man to exist? What does it truly mean to be. Is it just laughter. Is it just making others laugh in order to be young and continue to exist in this world? Or is there more to it than just that? (Yes, these things keep me up at night).
What does it mean then to exist if it isn’t just to make people laugh? The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of humanity is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We exist for God. We exist to glorify him and be in his company.
We exist not just on a whim. We exist not just for the pleasure of some deity but we exist to be in relationship with God. We exist not because God needed us, but because he wanted us. Our existence isn’t based on what we can nor cannot do but based upon the simple fact that God loves us.
Now, to be honest, I can’t remember much more about Aquinas. He’s one smart dude. I’ve read one of his biographies and studied on him in church history. He was also nicknamed “The Ox” because of his size and disposition. But it is his ideas of existence that still stick with me.
We exist. That is true. But why do we exist is the question we get. If you just think it’s for laughter, if you just think it’s for yourself, or if it’s just to be a good person, then you’re missing out on something amazing. It’s more than that. It’s more than living good lives. It’s living in relationship with the creator of the world itself. It’s living with the God of the universe day in and day out. Now, that is a reason to be.