Is That All There Is?

In 1965 one of the most famous rock songs of all time, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones was released. Mick Jagger believed it was so popular because it was a reflection of the times. I read where someone said the song should have actually been titled, “I Can’t Keep No Satisfaction.” We all seem to think we know what will satisfy us. However, once we obtain it, the problem is making that  feeling last.

Four years later in 1969, Peggy Lee recorded the song “Is That All There Is?” It was a very unusual song but wildly popular. The woman speaking in the song tells about being taken as a twelve-year-old to the circus that was called “The Greatest Show on Earth,” but as she watched she “had the feeling that something was missing. I don’t know what, but when it was over I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is to a circus?’” Later she says that she fell “so very much in love” with the “most wonderful boy in the world.” And then one day he left her, and she thought she’d die. “But I didn’t. And when I didn’t, I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is to love?’” At every turn everything that should have delighted and satisfied her did not—nothing was big enough to fill her expectations or desires. There was always something missing, though she never knew what it was. Everything left her asking, “Is that it?”

So every stanza of her life, like a song, went back to the same refrain:

Is that all there is?

Is that all there is?

If that’s all there is my friends,

Then let’s keep dancing.

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball,

if that’s all—

there is.

The lack of any deep or lasting satisfaction drives her to joyless partying. As we gradually discover that everything we thought would be fulfilling is not, we become less able to look forward to life, more numb, jaded, and cynical, or worse. The woman speaking in the song realizes that her listeners might wonder why she doesn’t commit suicide. But she predicts that the experience of dying will be every bit as disappointing as life has been, so there is no reason to hurry it.

The playwright Henrik Ibsen offers some profound insight into this human dilemma. He said, If you take away the life illusion from an average man, you take away his happiness as well.”

A life illusion is the belief that some object or condition will finally bring you the satisfaction for which you long. But this is an illusion. At some point reality will destroy it, and nothing destroys an illusion like actually achieving your dreams. The most disappointing moment in life is when you have just achieved the ultimate and it lets you down.

What we all must realize is that we each have a deep longing in our souls and we are searching for something to satisfy this thirst.

I am reminded of the powerful words of the prophet Jeremiah who explains why humans never seem to be able to find the means to quench the deep thirst of their souls. He says:

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to make for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (2:13)

God is telling us He is the source of living water, but so many reject Him, and instead seek to build their own cistern to capture the water that might satisfy the thirst of their souls. However, it is an effort in futility as all human strategies fail us. They are all broken, they can’t hold water. It leaves us empty.

God invites us to come to the fountain of living water and to drink. There is no other true source for us to drink from.

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.


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