Thursday, November 12, 2015

That inner ache - the human condition

     The inner ache, that sense of missing something, a feeling I think most of us experience at one time or another, takes on many forms.  For some it takes on the form of loneliness, a wanting to connect to others, to feel understood, embraced, loved fully and completely for who we are. Others have described it as a desire to "go home" and have said that this place (this life) is just not home, somehow. They feel restless, lost, out of place. For some it feels like an absence of meaning or purpose.
     Our culture has, for awhile, tried to find the fulfillment of that emptiness or ache in the form of "true love", something described as incredibly rare and by some as only for "one couple in every hundred years". Other practices don't see it as that rare, but still emphasize that this partnering somehow makes us whole. Many faith traditions offer a belief of "the two becoming one". Some honor marriage, therefore, as a sacrament in which God has made one whole out of two halves, a whole that cannot be divided no matter what. I understand the value in that thinking, and maybe for some people that is true. I had a very good marriage. My husband and I were very well suited to each other and rarely disagreed, let alone argued.  We played well, worked well, parented well, partnered well together.  We were compatible in our theology, politics, finances, ideas of parenting, level of cleanliness, foods we liked, activities, books and movies we enjoyed... actually I can't think of much that was incompatible until the end.  For many years, I was happy with him and with the marriage. Still, I never felt that somehow I was "made whole" by the marriage.  And by that, I mean three things.  First, I never felt that I had been only a half a person before. Second, there were still times in the marriage when that ache, loneliness, emptiness, yearning was present for me. And third, when the marriage ended, I did not feel that I became half a person again.  There was a ripping, a tearing, but not into two halves of a whole. Instead it was the ripping and tearing of any close relationship that is injured, damaged, or torn. It was deeper because the relationship was deeper. But it was not because I was torn away from my other half, but because we were tearing another chink into the divisions of the world. I think that, perhaps, the whole idea of "true love" being incredibly rare is an attempt to explain why, despite partnering and marriage, most of us still do feel that ache at times, even in good marriages.  But, at least for most of us, I don't believe we really can be filled by another human being. We aren't "half of a whole, waiting to find the other half," rather we are a puzzle piece in a huge picture, the whole of which is bigger than we can see or imagine.  It includes all of us, and I would say all of creation.  We are pieces of creation, and our separation from that body, into individuals who sometimes seek our own good at the expense of the whole, leads us into this feeling of disconnect, of ache, of separation. Until we are united again in a vision that we truly are one and that what hurts me hurts you, what hurts you hurts me, and that therefore we must work together for the good of everyone - until we have this unity, I think there will be that aching, that yearning, that sense of not "being home" and of not "being whole."  We aren't home, because we are torn from one another and can not rest in a sense of unity.  We aren't whole because we are like a shattered mirror, with many pieces that cut and stab, unaware that until we work together, we will never be a whole.
     I had a wise spiritual director once say that that inner yearning is, ultimately, the desire to connect more fully to the Divine. To me this is a recognition that together we are more than the sum of our parts. Together we have meaning. Together we are a work of art, created by something we cannot begin to comprehend, and yet something that we ache to be a part of.  We yearn to be a note in a beautiful piece of music, not singing it on our own, but being sung as part of a universal chorus.  We ache to be a part of an amazing piece of art, not simply another slash of color painted at random and drifting around, but an irreplaceable part of a creation that has beauty and light and wonder.  We long to be part of a lovely and purposeful dance, not simply a movement on it's own, but a movement with meaning and purpose that works together with all of the other movements to become something we all are part of and that guides and fulfills each part even as it is in itself breathtakingly wondrous.
    Moments of transcendence take us into that larger vision.  But returning is hard as we once again fall into our own unique space and struggle to find the whole once more.
    Still, keep striving.  Keep searching.  Keep reaching out to find your place in that whole.  The ache itself calls us to do that, to be a part of putting the puzzle pieces together and of helping to imagine the picture, the music, the dance, that is bigger than we can see.  It is only together that we can be the creation we were meant to be.  And it is only together that we will finally be "home", and "whole" and connected with that which is bigger than the sum of the parts.  It is only together that we will be with the One who made us and creates us to be beautiful.