What Is This Stirring in Our Hearts?
If you’re like me, you’ve had times in your life when you’ve asked some hard questions- questions which had no easy answers and often brought even deeper questions into your mind. If you’re like me, you weren’t satisfied with this state of affairs, so you began a quest to gain deeper insight and understanding into your purpose and the seemingly never-ending struggle involved in overcoming the many barriers encountered in your journey. Finally, you may identify with me when I mention how many barriers to my progress were self-inflicted; yes, I was my own worst enemy and often didn’t even realize it! The journey has been amazing, and continues to be so every day- although I continue to do battle with myself, I am hopeful that my story may give others some signposts for their own journey. In that spirit, may you find my perspective beneficial in some small way.
The sound of music, the way a painting draws our eyes to gaze upon it, the way we recognize a beautiful sunset, memories of times long past; these transcendent moments are full of feeling and awe, like an echo of something long forgotten, a poignant combination of pleasure and remembrance of something lost- of nostalgia, for… what? Why do we have a word for this feeling?
As we grow older, many of us know that feeling of a memory suddenly evoked years later by the once familiar scent of cinnamon rolls rising on grandma’s old wood stove, or a certain song that reminds us of our first love. How can we explain what is going on here in our minds- or is it our heart- our soul?
Injustice, slavery, cruelty; these things call us to something greater than ourselves, to help those who are helpless or trapped and who have no way to ever repay us. In our best moments, we have empathy; we put ourselves in their shoes and look for some way to lend a helping hand, to make a difference. How do we explain this desire to make the world a better place?
courtesy of Marin Hann
Have you ever realized that every known culture has deeply rooted rituals that both individually and collectively move the participants to great passion? Appeasing their gods in sacrifice and prayer; showing their devotion by extreme, even painful behaviors; creating monuments in honor to their god: Why do they have a need to have passion about something outside of themselves?
Even in modern, so called secular societies, there are, nonetheless, very different shrines, where practitioners go to worship religiously, even zealously, as they pause their lives to focus on their needful rituals. If distracted, or otherwise prevented from participating in these events, practitioners may become sad, depressed, or even angry. Clearly, such things as shopping, sporting events, concerts and Hollywood serve a very powerful function in the lives of many, but for what purpose? Why are celebrities put on pedestals and treated as idols? Why do we have such a passion for shopping at our favorite boutique or for cheering our favorite team to victory? Why are we so sad, even depressed if these things don’t go our way- when clearly none of these things are necessary for survival?
Nostalgia, empathy, passion– what do these things have in common? Why are our hearts stirred, why are we moved so deeply? When we get beyond ourselves, and move past selfishness, we connect with something unexplainable and powerful, and our desire to connect with others grows, our need to be part of something bigger increases, as if some great unmet need is finally beginning to be satisfied. It seems that all our lives, to a greater or lesser degree, we are attempting to find a way to fill this great need. As we grow older, we hopefully apply more wisdom to the process as we learn what doesn’t work, and realize, often through some crisis or another, that what we thought was important, actually is hollow and empty and ultimately worthless.
Next: What Are We Created For?