We long for things throughout our lives. When we are very young, we long for Christmas to arrive sooner. When we are in our teen years, we long to be accepted as we are. When we are parents, we long to see our children happy. When we are elders, we long for lost friends. Our lives are filled with moments of longing that make perfect sense for the moment.
There is another kind of longing that fills whole groups of people. Those in war, long for peace. Those who are discriminated against, long to be accepted. Those who are ill, long to regain their health. When I look at American society, I see many people longing for a sense of security – some from terrorists, but many more from economic ruin. People value independence yet long for a sense of belonging as they struggle with the aloneness that comes from independence. We are a nation that longs for freedom and struggles with the responsibilities that come with it. For example, I see people longing for a sense of freedom from fear yet find it hard to embrace the compassion that would mitigate the fear.
But is there a longing that comes from an even deeper place than even the political and social patterns of a society? This little essay is about the longing that fills people not because it is a particular moment in or condition of their lives or a general feeling of need within a society, but from somewhere universal.
When I asked a young woman of my acquaintance about longing, she was very quick to respond. She said, “We are longing for a sense of purpose and for connections with others – that are meaningful.” What a beautiful summarization that transcends time, political and social patterns and focuses on individuals who one day realize they are unique.
A sense of purpose answers the question of what my uniqueness brings to the world and how I can make my contribution from this uniqueness. Meaningful connections tell us that unique does not have to mean alone, and that there are others who will support us in our uniqueness. Purpose and meaningful connections feel elemental. Society does not have to do a thing to place these longings in the human soul. We are naturally beings of purpose and beings who wish to be with others. We may be unique, but we are not alone in the struggle of life.
Longing is not the same as desire or want. It feels like it comes from a much deeper place than either of them. Perhaps longing is the ‘desire of the heart’ that is spoken of in scripture. Longing is often unnamed. It is often unrecognized. It is always felt.
I’ve never written so far afield from the general topic of riding the current in this blog. However, as I dive deeper and deeper into this topic, I am finding pearls that embellish the earlier thoughts I have had. For example, deciding that you will learn to ride the current is about finding the path to the knowledge you need to be who you are meant to be. Inviting Practice Partners to go along with you is about meaningful connections.
I have been searching for an umbrella under which I can place all the work I am doing, an umbrella that represents the deepest values I hold. This feels like the place to begin.
Photo by Jethro Taylor