Lately I've been reading The Holy Longingby Ronald Rolheiser. I heard of it through the priest at the church we usually attend. He started a group to talk about it on Thursday nights this summer. Unfortunately, I'm not able to attend the group, but I'm glad I bought the book.
This book touches me on a lot of levels. I'm normally a fast reader, but this one has taken time. There is so much to think about, to contemplate. The book alternates between touching your heart and soul with it's understanding and giving you new ways to look at things.
It grabbed me early on when it talked about desire. I'm going to quote a passage because I could never justify it by trying to describe it.
Whatever the expression, everyone is ultimately talking about the same thing - an unquenchable fire, a restlessness, a longing, a disquiet, a hunger, a loneliness, a gnawing nostalgia, a wildness that cannot be tamed, a congenital all-embracing ache that lies at the center of human experience and is the ultimate force that drives everything else. This disease is universal. Desire gives no exemptions.
It does however admit of different moods and faces. Sometimes it hits us as pain - dissatisfaction, frustration, and aching. At other times its grip is not felt as painful at all, but as a deep energy, as something beautiful, as an inexorable pull, more important than anything else inside us, toward love, beauty, creativity, and a future beyond our limited present. Desire can show itself as aching pain or delicious hope.
First I want to say that the comment about a "gnawing nostalgia" surprised me. Ever since I was a child, when encountering something especially beautfiul (usually related to nature, like one of those perfect sunsets or a day when the breeze on your face is just to perfect for words) I have felt nostalgic. I have often wondered...nostalgic for what? As a child, I hadn't lived enough life yet to be nostaligic for anything in particular, but I was aware of it and wondered about it even then.
Reading this passage was the first time I realized that others felt it, too.
When my faith was strong, when I had no doubt about God's existance, you would think there would be peace, but even then an ache was present. I think it may be an aching for the presence of God.
Yet there was peace, too, along with the "inexorable pull" Father Rolheiser describes. Peace and nostalgia. Peace and an aching restlessness. I could never make sense of it.
In my blog I frequently talk about wanting to make a difference in the world. I realize now that the author's description of desire is exactly how I feel in my drive to make impact the lives of others.
Then there's music, of course. It's always back to music for me. Rolheiser's definition completely describes my experience with music. At a great concert (whether Switchfoot, symphony, or any other moving concert) there's that incredible joy as music fills my soul. Sometimes the beauty seems too perfect to be real. At the same time there's an ache, a longing, in part because the concert can't go on forever and I never want it to stop.
It might be more accurate to say that I don't want the way music fills me to stop.
It was even the same when I played in band in school and college. Sometimes things just click so well when you're performing. All the players seem to understand, to be in sync with each other. The music is effortless and wonderous, and the musicians are one with each other.
At those concerts, it's hard when it's over. As a performer, you are not just a listener but a participant in the music. It's part of you while at the same time it's all around you.
Afterwards, whether attending a concert or performing in one, there's that "concert high" mixed with the low of knowing you have to wait for more...and that, in a way, it is never enough.
In so many ways, music and God are interrelated. I think that God uses music to bring people closer to Him. I think He created something incredibly powerful with music, which is why Satan doesn't hesitate to use it also. As we all know, the power of music can be used to inspire bad as well as good.
Maybe that's why so much of my blog features musicians. They have incredible power to reach others. With that should come responsibility.
Authors can have incredible power, too. Ronald Rolheiser proved that with "The Holy Longing."
I'll probably talk more about this book in future posts. I plan to purchase at least one more book of his.
Now I find myself with one more desire. I want to be able to write as powerfully as Ronald Rolheiser does. I want to touch souls the way he does.