The human heart is deep; filled with longings and desires than can not be fulfilled.  Or if they are, or seem to be, it is soon discovered that fulfillment is also an illusion.  There is always something more to be attained or sought after.  Relationships seem to be one of the main sources of suffering for people, if not for all, perhaps for the majority. This seeking after the ‘one’, the ‘soul mate’ that will finally be able to put that  deep loneliness away for good, is a common theme in our literature, cinema and other art forms. Human relationships, no matter the depth in which they are experienced, or in the end finite (but perhaps they increase our capacity for the infinite), and cannot in themselves reach this goal.  The pain experienced for many in this search for fulfillment can often be indescribable.

Inner emptiness is an experience that can drive many to distraction, seeking anything to soften the inner void that seems to be waiting when one is unaccompanied, or feels alone, or when there is time on ones hands and nothing can fill it.  It can feel like being backed into a corner, trapped and the only escape for many is one addiction or another.  I would suppose food does that for me, even though I know it will not give me any lasting feeling of inner fullness or peace.  For once the tension is released, the inner sting of isolation is still there waiting to be dealt with.  I suppose this experience is more common in countries where just working for survival does not take up all of ones time.  Once a set of needs is taken care of, deeper ones will always surface that have to be dealt with.

How anyone deals with that depends on what they truly believe about life, its purpose and what it is we are here for, if anything.  For some life ends in a brick wall, no doorways, just nothing, and they often say “it is best get used to it”.  If that is so, if we are but material creatures, without soul, spirit or perhaps even real personal existence, our self awareness being what one author (can’t remember his name at this point) says “is an illusion aware of itself”, why is it that we have desires that seem unattainable by anything that can be accomplished in this world?  At least I have not met anyone who has experienced this.

Once we attain what we desire it often loses it luster, for once something is owned it can no longer be longed for.  I suppose human relationships are an exception for often the love sought after, the union desired cannot be attained, often leaving deeper pain and longing.  No the heart is thirsty for what can fulfill it.

Each person will express this differently, depending on what they believe. For our beliefs form our perceptions about life.  All one has to do is pick up any book on philosophy, theology, or some scientific journal, to find that out.  I am a Christian, Roman Catholic, so that will have a very strong influence on how I look at the world, my own inner life and also how I look at others around me.  It can’t be helped.  I also know that today we live in a society in which one cannot be carried by any kind of cultural beliefs that are religious in nature.  It is coming to the point that if one does not ponder ones own path deeply, then absorption by the prevailing culture will be the only option available.  I find that kind of scary actually.

We are contemplative creatures, we are made to think, ponder, study and yes to talk and share with others and stretch.  If we don’t do this, then rigidity will set in and the inner life will dry up leading to and ever deeper need to be distracted, a running away from the needs of the soul and spirit.

In the stopping, in the actual embracing of the inner pain that afflicts so many, the slowing down and being present to simply what is, is what leads to home, a place of rest. Though even then, it is an ever deepening process, one that is different for each person, though there is much that is the same.  As a Christian, again, this will color how I perceive this journey, and many will not agree with me.  So for me, it is all about relationship with the infinite.  In the Christian faith and tradition God is revealed as love, personal and as St. Paul says is “Always Yes” or “Jesus is God’s Yes. ” We are made (according to my faith) in the image and likeness of God.  I think that can be taken in many ways, but the fact that we are driven by our seeking after love, to be one of them.  The human heart is thirsty, and it is love, the water for heart and soul, the living water that will quench that thirst.

I often fail, stop, and wander off, yet in the end I am called back to the path.  Faith, prayer and the seeking after God is a response to an invitation that is presented to all by “God’s Yes. ”I am not shocked by the failures of the church, though of course deeply saddened, for I am myself a sinner, so I also share a part in this failing.  The good news about accepting ‘sin’ is that it means that I am free and have choices, even if it will take me a lifetime to fully respond to that invitation and grace.

Now that I am 62 and look back at my life, I can see that love has always been there for me, seeking me more than I seek it, healing me even when I fight it, and with an infinite patience and tenderness that is at times heart breaking.  I know that many scoff at such things.  In fact I have come to expect it.  Yet the reason people from all over the world believe in the transcendent, is because experiences of this reality are common among our species and cannot be brought up at will, since grace is a gift bestowed when most needed.

Faith is a choice, made on some level even if not conscious for some… for on an inner level, the underground stream (a term first used by Ira Progof I believe) moves forward and many of us are further along than we are aware of.  This work of the infinite in the human heart is something beyond human comprehension and one day I feel through God’s mercy, we will each come to understand that.

Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.

  1. Wow Mark,
    You touched on many truths, not truths because you believe them to be truths, but because they are true. Man, I have known that aching longing and I have experienced the peace of which you speak. Recently I wrote a piece on my blog dealing with a similar theme. I believe the longing is a longing for love, by which I mean an unconditional acceptance of me as I am, not as I wish I were. My imperfections block my acceptance of the love offered me by God. The major hurdle seems to me to be the need to love myself. I don’t know that I love myself, but I have come to accept who I am. I have done hateful, mean, thoughtless things. I have been selfish to the point of taking from my wife and children. I have learned that I never started my day with the intention of doing those things, but that evil that lives in me led me there. For me the realization that I was not intentionally doing those things has given me the ability to accept who I am. Time and wisdom have allowed me to experience God’s unconditional love. This is grace. The Apostle Paul struggled with this same longing when he wrote, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15 ESV)

    I would like to believe my wife of 46 years loves me unconditionally, but I am afraid to test it since I know my inner self and have never dared to let her or anyone else into some places since I am afraid that if she/they knew the darkness that dwells within me she/they would reject me. This fear keeps me from experiencing the depth of our relationship for which I long. I believe that this fear of rejection blocks the relationships we crave, thus the longing.

    Thank you for writing this piece.

  2. Mark Dohle

    Thank you Jake, I guess our journeys , though unique are in many way s the same. Yes before God the soul is pure crystal so nothing is hidden, yet loved. Yet this hiding is the big illusion, for all is already seen loved and forgiven.


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