My personal witness on the stages of “growing up” show me that there seems to be a burden and weight of disappointment and depression. A total lack of vigor for the goodness of life. Replaced with a superficial enthusiasm for the job of self-development.
I picture the charismatic environment of the high school graduation ceremony that every Hollywood film captures so well. The promises of the future and the endless possibilities awaiting these capable teenagers. This seems wrong to me. Like a farmer guiding his horse to a dry well. We are faced in a certain direction and we march. And here I am, transitioning from college to “adult life” (lol don’t take me too seriously) and I look around and see faces of disappointment trapped under the expression of “this is how it has to be”. These are friends, loved ones, and mere acquaintances that are entering into the “working world” and tell me about their jobs. They tell me about their next step in life, but never their destination. Perhaps their destination is merely another step on this never ending stairway. I’m not sure. But the look in people’s eyes these days is undeniable. One of confusion. As if the promises they saturated themselves with led them to a dead end. So here we are. Wanting to toss up our arms in despair and call it a day because life doesn’t make much sense. I look around at the faces of this busy world, as we hover around distracted by our daily tasks, and our faces tell the story. Faces of people that have given up hope. But what hope have we given up?!
We have given up hope that the deepest desires of our hearts can be satisfied. That our thirst can be truly quenched. Yet, this remains unknown. The desires of our heart seem incongruent to the reality in front of our faces. The desires for beauty, truth, and goodness do not match the brokenness of our families, the snares of addiction, the aggravation of the workplace, and the mundanity of everyday life in its trials and boringness. We long for another world, far from here, where we are free. Like Peter Pan longs for Neverland. WB Yeats captures this in his play “Land of Heart’s Desire” when the character Mary exclaims:
Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
The deepest parts of ourselves are dreamers with imaginations driven by the aches of our hearts for a better life. For a fulfilling life. Yet, we are met with how the world is, not how we long for it to be. Which leaves us groaning like Mary in this scene of the play for someone to help us escape this sense of let down and allow us to satisfy these desires we have for wild adventure and freedom.
We are like birds whose wings have been clipped. Yet we sit perched on a limb with the urge to fly. The object of the desire to soar, flight, is lost. Unknown. This tension leads us to a mystery. The mystery of the longings of our heart, which are deeper than mere romanticism, and our placement in this material world. Is fulfillment possible in our current location in time and space? Is there a purpose and meaning to these desires?
I think these words of 20th century existential philosopher Gabriel Marcel touch upon the human drama we play out, and offer some insight through a first person experiential lens…
“I can now explain the general direction of the task I have set myself today. I want to make it my business to reflect before those who follow in my footsteps, and so perhaps to stretch out a helping hand to them as they climb the dark hill of Destiny, our common fate. We never climb alone, though we often seem to do so; belief in loneliness is the first illusion to dispel, the first obstacle to overcome; in some cases the first temptation to conquer. There is no need for me to say that I chiefly address myself to the less fortunate among you; to those who despair of ever reaching the summit of the mountain, or (what is worse) are persuaded that there is no summit and no ascent, and that the adventure of Life is reduced to tramping miserably about in the mists; the process will go on till death, when total extinction will devour or dedicate its incomprehensible vacuity… I think there is something which has greater power than art or poetry in the tragic state of the world’s struggle today. A concrete metaphysic, in tune with the deepest notes of our personal experience, may have a decisive part to play for many souls” (204).
— Gabriel Marcel, Being and Having
Seth’s words to the crowd from minute 1:19 to 2:38 are pretty profound… such a jam!