Rebecca Solnit writes in A Field Guide to Getting Lost:
We [tend to] treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire- though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms – since isn’t it as inherent to the human condition as the color blue is to distance? What if we could look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you could own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond.
When I read that, I am transported to a dusty red four-speed Toyota, and I’m driving west across South Dakota. After miles of corn fields give way to miles of grassy pasture; after the Missouri river valley gives way to rolling tall grass prairie; after you cross through the barren beauty of Badland spires reaching toward the sky, after the signs for Wall Drug say, “wait, you missed it!”……after all of that you finally come to the place where the Black Hills loom in the distance, and you marvel at the sudden change in the horizon. You are astonished at the majestic expanse that commands your sightlines and the welcoming darkness of what lays ahead. And then at some point as you continue on your westward journey, it’s gone. Once you reach the point where identifying individual hills and trees is possible, the black has vanished and only the landscape remains. They are just hills, now – beautiful and sacred as they always were, but the mystery that came with the space that was once between you and the place you sought is as gone as the distance that was closed to nothing. And when you look up and out past the place where the hills give way to grasslands again, you can see hints of the next place that you seek, and the color that tints that desire to arrive.
What do you think it would look like to just be with desire — to bear witness to it, inhabit it fully, approach it with what John Keats memorably termed “negative capability?” There is something profound in truly feeling what we feel without trying to change it. And perhaps when we sit with a feeling, be it longing, or melancholy or sadness, and let it do its work in us, it will – and then it will move on. Maybe we would feel less stuck all the time. Maybe we could then remember the beauty in the blackness of distant hills and let it carry us into whatever horizon might invite us in next.
Would it make a difference in how we progress toward the goals we have for our lives? Toward the vision that we seek to live up to? What would it mean to “own our longing?” in the same way that we acknowledge beauty and goodness and truth?