“Longing is the deepest and most ancient voice in the human soul” – John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes
Fellow poet-mystics understand how gratifying metaphors can be. They build a much bigger backdrop upon which to mess about and articulate those things that defy such articulation.
Hiraeth is most helpful here. It is an older word from an older culture at a younger time. It has the thickness of time-honored usage by countless others just as curious and longing as I.
Admittedly, at times when I really should be listening intently to our pastor preach his stellar sermons I find myself writing in my journal instead. These times are often quite fruitful. Perhaps it’s just the delight in foregoing the reality right in front of me for the one I keep trying to build in my head! Och weel, be that as it may…
A fatigue so deep has set in that I’m calling it depletion. The river has run dry and much of what I’ve done for years feels more like duty than vocation. A restless, ceaselessly searching spirit has been my lot for as long as I’ve been breathing. So, the light of experience tells me that quick and easy answers are not on the menu.
No, this must be borne quietly while I discern alongside it what’s to be done, if anything, to find some inner dampness again.
Hiraeth – the spiritual weight of longing. It’s how I would imagine a 10-mile portage through dense forest carrying a 90-pound canoe might be like. And, without the aid of a decent compass, readable map, or clear reason for the journey in the first place.
Some things just kind of creep up on a person – age, anger, addiction, fatigue, desire, love. They boast a surprising stealth, deftly dodging every conscious attempt at control or even self-understanding. But, perhaps the hardest to pin down is that of longing. It is the most elusive. Like humility of character, it’s the greased pig of spiritual experience. Wrangling it successfully with anything close to keen insight, all with a growing weariness, is like the vain admission of one’s own humility. It’s elusive as it is ironic.
In the morning I glance in the mirror and see a 6’1″, grey-haired, green-eyed Libra with surprising levels of energy and two pages of life goals. At lunch, the same mirror reveals an older, albeit content and generally successful man, happy for a measure of stability. As evening comes however, it brings an uncertainty. The image is still recognizable with all the right stuff in all the right places.
But the mirror has changed.
It seems farther away somehow, and murky, like soaped up windows in the carwash. The fingerprints could be mine. But, if so, I can no longer tell and, worst of all, I no longer care. What are mirrors good for anyway beyond advancing one’s own skewed self-image? Gawk into one as long as you like and one is none the wiser – only more vain, and sometimes increasingly less satisfied, with a penchant for forgetting what one has just seen.
Self-understanding is the greatest of God’s ‘under the sun’ gifts. But it comes at a high price. And it comes indirectly, peripherally, sneaking up on us from behind. And its deepest insights generally come at the expense of pain, loss and suffering. It also comes only in proportion to the willing clarity of a long, loving gaze into the eyes of the Self of all selves; the I Am, the ever-existing font of all personhood and is-ness.
God is stirring. I believe it is why I’m suddenly paying attention rather than affixing to it some scripture on faithfulness that, though informative, speaks at cross purposes to yet others yelling at me to slow down.
I can’t breathe. But God is my aim. And, so, I am once again looking for God.
Photography by Laura Aldridge