“I guess I don’t like the argument from desire because I’ve never felt a desire for something that can’t be satisfied on earth.”
As a melancholic who has nearly always longed for something beyond this world, I was a bit surprised by this admission. My class was reviewing arguments for God’s existence and as we went over each one, I would ask a few students to share if they liked or disliked the argument. Then they needed to voice why, perhaps the most difficult part of it all for them.
I wanted them to reflect on the arguments and see which ones they found personally compelling. Each person is different and so I wasn’t too concerned if they liked all of the arguments or not. Yet it is always interesting to me which ones they dislike and why. Some other students voiced a dislike for the desire argument, but the declaration that they had never desired something beyond this world seemed foreign to me.
Melancholic that I am, I have always longed for perfection. Ever since high school and college, that has translated into a longing for Heaven. So as my students were voicing that they have never experienced this unfulfilled desire for something beyond this world, I was left wondering why they don’t have a longing that I never remember being without.
In my first year of teaching, I prayed frequently for death. Not in a morbid way, but in a longing-for-home-and-yet-knowing-everything-around-me-is-temporary way. The more I battled with my students over Church teaching, the more I wanted to be in a place of eternal Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Yet that was far from the first time that I had felt an unfulfilled desire. Why are my students not experiencing this also?
I think part of the reason is temperament. And I think another factor, maybe even more predominant, is their environment. We are a culture of noise and excess. American culture focuses on instant gratification and constant comfort. Between smartphones allowing us to continually access the world and a steady push to acquire more and more, our lives are filled with a frenzy that previous generations didn’t have to battle. If we are in the constant pursuit of more, whether it be information, clothes, food, or popularity, we may never slow down enough to pinpoint the deeper longings of our hearts.
I went to a series of talks several weeks ago and the speaker said that the way we mirror God’s infinitude is in our desire. We have infinite desires. And it struck me as deeply true. I have experienced this longing for something far more than what this world can provide. Even with these longings, I don’t consider myself a person who struggles with being content. Instead, it seems natural to me to long for that which endures and transcends this temporal world. This longing reassures me that perfection, wholeness, and eternity have hope of being fulfilled.
Obviously, the argument from desire is based upon our own experiences of being unfulfilled and I cannot make someone admit they long for more. Yet I can look at my own experiences and see repeated situations where I realize the radical insufficiency of this world. And though some students may disagree with me, I know I am not alone in this. I’ll close with a quote from Till We Have Faces, a book by C.S. Lewis, that exemplifies this longing and its beautiful fulfillment.
I am going, you see, to the Mountain. You remember how we used to look and long?…The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing–to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from–…Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back. All my life the god of the Mountain has been wooing me.