Desire and fulfillment

If there is no hope in the spiritual life other than to acknowledge that it theoretically exists, then the longing for more and the desire for the mysterious will never be satisfied. The longing is all that there is to be had. Is simply the longing for something mysterious enough to give meaning to my life? I would argue most definitely not. Not in my experience. Hope and longing without fulfillment breaks the heart.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13:12)

To be drawn to the mystery and the joy we find in our pursuits is not enough. After experiencing all pursuits, they come up empty to me. They were not what I was looking for. I must find the source of the mystery or desire that was behind them.

Instead of being esoteric, let’s use the example of love again. When we fall in love, we are drawn into the mystery, joy, and desire of the one we love. Are we simply to acknowledge the mystery of love, the feelings of joy, and the intensity of desire and then do nothing with it? Does not desire lead to action? Does not the allure of mystery create within us the desire to know it, and thus lead us to try to understand and experience it? Are scientists simply satisfied to look at nature and say “Wow.. how nice – how wonderful and mysterious”, and look no further into it?

Even if we cannot experience the mystery, is not our imagination’s job, born by desire, to create within us the possibility of what the mystery might be like? Looking at this from a cause and effect standpoint, which came first, the mystery or my imagination of what it could be? The mystery and desire came first; so it is not wish-fulfillment but rather a desire to know, an interesting step towards prompting me to act. In the case of falling in love, my imagination soars with possibility, and I am drawn to action – to experience and know the one I love in reality, not just in my imagination.

So bringing this back to my earlier statement, I must pursue the source of the mystery if the pursuit itself turns up empty. In my experience, each pursuit left me empty because it was only, in the end, a new spot to perch with a view of a new set of far-away hills of other exciting pursuits. In the end, SF is just stories about how it was possible, for example, to travel in hyperspace and inhabit planets. The mystery and allure of these possibilities that don’t exist or aren’t known presently are exciting to imagine at first, but say they did exist, how would life be different? Nothing in my spiritual life would be different. Instead of sitting on a plane, I would be a passenger on a hyperspace ship contemplating the pursuit of some other exciting thing. The grass is always greener on the other side, is it not? Is there any grass that is the greenest of all?

Each new discovery is like falling in love, fascinating and exhilarating at first, but each new cracked mystery will eventually become commonplace. I cannot live on commonplace because my heart is drawn to something that can never be commonplace or suburbanized. I’ll know I’ve found it when its experience fulfills me. But is the desire behind all pursuits attainable? Can it be experienced? Is there something in this world that the experiencing of it will not become dull in time? Or is it just the fate of intelligent people to be disappointed in the end where they throw in the towel on finding any meaning in life and instead adopt a despairing, bitter existence? Maybe if I don’t think about the despair, it won’t hurt so much. So true happiness must exist in purposeful ignorance of my past discoveries. Maybe re-capturing the feelings of old passionate pursuits is where meaning in life exists. I will find fulfillment in life by re-living one temporarily satisfying pursuit to another like a drug addict. Divorce and re-marry when the feelings die in my marriage. Go mountain climbing and backpacking like when I was younger and first started loving it. Read SF and fantasy again, write more, etc. I will live in a perpetual mid-life crisis, stubbornly ignoring my inner self telling me it won’t work. If all pursuits fail to be meaningful or fulfilling, even when repeatedly experienced, finally despair will set in, and then what choice do I have? Drug or drink myself into oblivion?

It seems more likely to me that ignorance is not the key. Wherever I go, eventually my integrity will prompt me to continue my search, and to disregard the notion that any past pursuit will bring any lasting meaning to my life when it failed to do so before, especially with repeated attempts. This is often a good place to come to – rock bottom. It forces you to accept the fact that you no longer know what makes you happy and reason prompts you to open your world-view, which has hitherto failed to help you, to new ideas. And so it is with all my pursuits. They are good pursuits and bring me happiness, but they are most enjoyed when I do not expect them to bring meaning to my life. Enjoying them, however, is hard to accomplish until I have found the object of my desire because they remind me of their emptiness and ineffectiveness to meet my real need. Only when I find and experience the object of my longing, will all other pursuits be enjoyable without the taint of emptiness because they have now arranged themselves in their proper places in my heart, being 2nd place, 3rd place, etc. in comparison with the pursuit whose experience will bring meaning and ultimate fulfillment.

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