All life is fired by longing. The simplest of plants and the highest of human love have this in common – yearning, restlessness, a certain inate insatiable pressure to eat, to grow, to breed, , to push beyond self, and people also experience this yearning as a pressure to build, to learn, to experience.
Longing, this insatiable life force that lies at the centre of all living things but is rarely examined.
What is this insatiable unconscious pressure within us to eat, drink, make love, to make our mark, to go beyond ourselves, our desire for immortality?
This pressure we see in plants. I’ve read about a man who after buying a house wanted to get rid of a bamboo plant. So he cut it down, chopped deep into its roots, and then poured a poison on top of them. He then filled the hole with gravel, and then paved the area with cement. Two years later, the cement heaved and cracked as that bamboo plant broke its way through that cement. The life principle was not so easily snuffed out by axes poison or cement.
Now I’m trying to get rid of my ground elder in the vicarage garden, I know how the guy felt.
The life push is felt by all living things, us included. All of nature is driven to eat, grow, breed and fight for its space. We see it in the hormonal drives in babies and teenagers. In adults we see it in our restlessness, in our greed for experience, our hunger for sex, our insatiability, and even our escapes into day dreams, alcohol and drugs.
We are forever that bamboo plant, blindly pushing outwards, the baby crying for milk.
For anyone that believes in the divine, the source of that incessant longing is that the earth is ablaze with the fire of God. This basic life principle, is experienced as a burning longing,
What is it all for? Well from a theistic viewpoint, all this longing and desire is not really blind at all. We may experience them as blind pressure, driving our lives to eat its way through food, sex, friendship and creativity, but they are the primal Spirit of God groaning and praying through us.
We are infinite Spirits trapped in finite bodies. We are built for consummation with everything and find only partial satisfaction.
The comedian Russell Brand, in one of his most serious interviews with Jeremy Paxman, having stunned Paxman already by saying that he believes in God and prays, then said something quite profound. He said that all desire was actually a desire for God.
We are finite beings who want to embrace the infinite to find completeness, peace, shalom, complete happiness – all the things that elude us in life that can only be found in the wholeness, the unity of God. This unconscious desire is for communion with all things, and all things subsist in God.
Where do we look for this God with whom we wish to commune? Well, where does your longing, your desire, your restlessness, your insatiable life principle come from?
In comes from within you doesn’t it?
And I have already affirmed that in our tradition that life principle is the Spirit of God – so to find this God you look within, the know yourself and in knowing yourself you come to know God the source of all your longings and desires.
Jesus knew it. He said. “The kingdom of God is within you”.
It is perceiving that we all of us, and not just us human beings, but all life has this same force within it that we find out what we have in common. WE find out that we all share the same source and the same longings, the life principle has the same source so that is our link to all other things.
We are finite and located in a time and place, but the Spirit within us all is infinite and not bound by time or space. Believing in God means we take both of those realities seriously.
Jesus took that realities seriously and lived his life in a manner that flowed from that. One of the commonest and earliest ways of describing Jesus is as “Fully man and fully god”.
In western Christianity we tend to reserve that exclusively for Jesus. Here the Eastern Christian church retains a fuller interpretation – that this description of Jesus is actually a description of the human condition. For the Orthodox, the goal of the Christian life is to become what we already are at heart, to become like God. To realise our own human reality. That we too have two realities, we are the finite, clumsy, inarticulate person with feet of clay that I see in the mirror every morning, and we are also an infinite Spirit yearning for unity with all things.
Jesus knew it. And Jesus is our exemplar and guide as to how knowing this reality will work in your life, how we channel and manage our drives, our yearnings and desires for good, how we attune ourselves to the Sprit so that as a human being we can flourish and bear fruit.