Hedonism to the Extreme: Lamborghini and Our Souls
“What does a tractor manufacturer know about sports cars?” said Enzo Ferrari to an Italian mechanic from humble roots.1
This mechanic, Ferruccio Lamborghini, did manufacture tractors, and he did well. But he also liked fast automobiles and building things, and in the decade following World War II he decided to try his hand at supercars. Frustrated with the Ferrari’s handling on the road, and Ferrari’s dismissal at some suggested improvements, Ferruccio blazed his own trail by creating Automobili Lamborghini. By the fall of 1963, at the Turin Motor Show, he released the Lamborghini 350 GTV and launched the beginning of an iconic supercar brand — a brand at which most men have only marveled from afar.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of that original design.
To commemorate the anniversary, Lamborghini has unveiled a new car that many say is aptly named “Egoista” — that is, “selfish.” Yes, that’s right. The car is named “Selfish.” It is a single-seat concept engineered for those who want to treat “me, myself, and I.” One commentator writes that the Egoista, along with its 5.2-litre V10, 600 horsepower engine, has aesthetically more in common with a fighter jet than with a vehicle meant for the ground. And there’s no secret about the marketing. Walter DeSilva, the head of design, explains, “[This car] is designed purely for hyper-sophisticated people who want only the most extreme and special things in the world. It represents hedonism taken to the extreme” (David Undercoffler, LA Times).
“Hedonism taken to the extreme.” So there you have it. This car is about pleasure to the max. That deep craving in our souls for ultimate happiness — the craving we all have — that’s what is behind this automobile. That is the bait held out for the few who can afford it. You are not really seeking pleasure until you sit behind this wheel.
But we know that’s an empty promise, on at least two levels.
What Only God Can Do
First, and most fundamental, no car can satisfy a God-shaped void. The quest for pleasure is really a quest for God. He created us to be happy in him. Now, grant the Lamborghini Egoista this: it would be a fun drive. It’s a beautiful machine. But while it’s a fruit of human ingenuity to be enjoyed, it’s not the place to search for the joy we need. While it offers a good experience, even if just to a thin slice of the human population, it’s not the destination of anyone’s deepest longings. That craving is satisfied in God alone. The real pursuit of pleasure must connect the most profound appetites of our being to the One by whom, in whom, and for whom we exist. God is our joy. God. Every other search is a dead-end road, no matter how fast we can drive it.
And we can attest to some experience of this dead-end road. Sinners can’t help but make black holes of the heart. We grab this one thing and give it its own space within the deep places of our souls. A gravitational pull begins. Eventually our whole lives orbit around its force and our resources get vacuumed into it with galactic abandon. What should be a gift — a glorious gift from God — ends up combusting into its own world.
We spin our wheels trying to recreate that superficial glee we felt the time before. We toil and toil for a diminishing return. Sure, entertainment may tarry for the night, but the wakeup call of emptiness comes in the morning. This is what it means to fall short of God’s glory: we exchange the hope of eternal joy for that which does not profit, we spend our money on moldy bread that cannot satisfy, we rebel to dumb ourselves down from the wonder for which we were made (Jeremiah 2:11–13; Isaiah 55:2; Romans 1:22–25).
There just aren’t substitutes for the “pleasures forevermore” of God’s fellowship (Psalm 16:11). The parched land of our lives needs more than a desperate splash from good things here and there. We need to be infused with the rivers that lead us to the One who is good. We need our land eroded by the ocean of God’s glory. And that gets into another level.
Deeper Than a Splurge
The Egoista ends empty not just because God alone can satisfy our souls, but also because this car’s offering isn’t how real pleasure works. This piece of Lamborghini commemoration tries to sell joy as a splurge. Happiness, they’d tell us, is a metric to meet, a high to hit, a rush to realize.
But this is too shallow to resonate with any soul responsibly aware of reality. The pleasure we crave can’t be contained in the excitement of 0 to 60 in less than four seconds, or the elitism of being a Lamborghini owner. The Egoista tells us to buy the car and burn the fuse while we have eternity in our hearts — eternity. We can’t manufacture anything to fill that gap.
The quest for real joy isn’t fulfilled in a moment. It isn’t a one-time event to experience, neither with a Lamborghini nor with God. The quest for real joy is a movement — the movement of God centered on himself as the author and perfecter of pleasure. God, because he is eternally glad in the Trinitarian fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit, launched a movement to show that gladness. He created everything that there is in order to show that gladness, including us. Out of his gladness he made us such that our gladness would be found in his own — not once or twice, but forever.
To The Extreme
So “hedonism taken to the extreme” isn’t found in a good supercar. And it’s not even in a good quiet time every now and then. Lasting joy is more than an existential buzz, whatever the source. Hedonism taken to the extreme is the day-in, day-out life of redeemed sinners who know they were created for another world.
Hedonism taken to the extreme is everyday forsaking the jewels of Egypt because our eyes are set on a better Treasure.
Hedonism taken to the extreme is the steady road of enjoying gifts as gifts from God in Christ, tributaries of joy that lead us to his fullness.
Hedonism taken to the extreme is what says, even when darkness veils his lovely face, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). God. Forever.
1 Fifty Cars That Changed the World, (Kindle Locations 702–703).
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