Existential discontent and remembering love.

Over the past few weeks and months I have been deep in the throes of an unsettling, a questioning and questing, an existential discontent.  I frequently find myself frustrated or deeply saddened, a case of weltschmerz embedded in my brain.  Really and truly the work of building community, both in living and vocation, seems too small in comparison to the world’s need, a need created by the unsustainable systems our culture has created that are often thoroughly destructive to both the human and natural world.  Moreover, I’m not sure what I want to do or how I want to live instead, just that my core nugget of hope has been dislodged and something must change in order for it to be reestablished in the center of my being.

After hours of venting with housemates, not a few tears, and imagined letters and journal and blog entries, I finally came across a marvelous piece on The Beauty We Love called Death of Pretense.  The entire thing is worth reading, but this section struck me most of all:
She longed to live, to really live, to no longer suffocate under the weight of the false image. Only one who longed to live could experience such an overwhelming urge to die. She longed with every cell of her body to end the pretense and the falseness and half-lived dreams and to open up to life in all its rawness and beauty – not to die, not to die, but to live in a real way.

Upon reading this then and now, I cannot help but shudder with identification, for I too want to live, truly and deeply, and to shed the pretenses and expectations of not only my own life but society and culture as a whole.  To commit wholly to that which is beautiful and real, to hope, to love.

The day of initial discovery of this piece passed, but this past weekend was spent in the company of some of my very best friends, people I can happily and gratefully call my rocks, trusted and respected wonderful beings that challenge and support me.  Though I didn’t consciously realize it while in their presence, I love these people and many others, and they are what root me to my present path even while I flounder, unable to see the way forward or even where the edges of the journey lie.  It is so easy for love to become a caricature of itself, an empty term of endearment applied only to Disney weddings and long lost family members.  But real love, chosen love, is what is real, what is true, what is beautiful.  It creates and sustains hope.


My deep world sadness is not yet resolved, and I’m not entirely sure it ever will or should be.  I can easily envision a long spiritual retreat in my not so distant future, as well as many long conversations with friends and family near and far.  But remembering love, and how present it is in my life and relationships, this I think will hold me and keep me until the light of meaning dawns again.


Words to Live By: John O’Donohue

I’m surprised that I haven’t yet shared any poems or quotes from John O’Donohue because he is one of those poets that literally seems to see the souls and longings of humanity and translate them into language, a remarkable gift that I hope to cultivate over time.  It’s uncanny how his poems surface just when I need them, from books or friends or, for the poem below, from wonderful blogs like The Beauty We Love.
On a farm you learn to respect nature, 
particularly for the wisdom of its dark underworld.  
When you sow things in the spring, 
you commit them to the darkness of the soil.  
The soil does its own work.  
It is destructive to interfere with the rhythm and wisdom of its darkness.  
You sow drills of potatoes on Tuesday and you are delighted with them.  
You meet someone on a Wednesday who says 
that you spread the potatoes too thickly, you will have no crop.  
You dig up the potatoes again and spread them more thinly.  
On the following Monday, you meet an agricultural advisor who says 
this particular variety of seed potatoes needs to be spread close together.
You dig them up again and set them closer to each other.  
If you keep scraping at the garden, you will never allow anything to grow.  
People in our hungry modern world are always scraping at the clay of their hearts.  
They have a new thought, a new plan, a new syndrome, that now explains why 
they are the way they are.  They have found an old memory that opens a new wound.  
They keep on relentlessly, again and again, scraping the clay away from their own hearts.  
In nature we do not see the trees, for instance, getting seriously involved in therapeutic analysis 
of their root systems or the whole stony world that they had to avoid on their way to the light.  
Each tree grows in two directions at once, into the darkness and out to the light 
with as many branches and roots as it needs to embody its wild desires…
It is wise to allow the soul to carry on its secret work in the night side of your life.  
You might not see anything stirring for a long time.  
You might have only the slightest intimations 
of the secret growth that is happening within you, 
but these intimations are sufficient.

~ John O’Donohue
from Anam Cara