I was reading a great C. S. Lewis book the other day. The title of which is God in the Dock. This book is a collection of essays by "Jack" Lewis and is divided into three parts. I recently made it to the third part and am struck at the brilliancy of the essays.
The essay that really grabbed my attention was on "First and Second Things" and discussed the paradox that if you pursue something secondary for its own sake, you end up losing the secondary "thing" you were pursuing. He used the example of the literature and the arts. He said it wasn't until the Romantics that art and literature were pursued for their own sake. Before then, the great music of Mozart, the works of Shakespeare, and the art of Da Vinci were pursued for a patron, for God, or to entertain the common man.
But "it was only in the nineteenth century that we became aware of the full dignity of art. We began to 'take it seriously'....But the result seems to have beena dislocation of the aesthetic life in which little is left for us but high-minded works which fewer and fewer people want to read or hear or see, and 'popular' works of which bothe those who make them and those who enjoy them are half ashamed....by valuing too highly a real, but subordinate good, we have come near to losing that good itself." (God In The Dock, p.280)
This isn't just for the arts though, a man who makes his girlfriend his entire universe, what happens when he has nothing to do but contemplate her? He (not only) loses his human dignity but also loses the joy he has in her. A "significant other" is a good thing to have, but when it becomes the sole center of our lives, we come too near to losing that good thing.
You can't get secondary things by placing them first, you can only get them by putting first things first. But this raises the question, what are all these goods secondary to?