Nostalgia, Beauty and Longing

Nostalgia, Beauty and Longing


The last couple of weeks I have been quite melancholy. It isn’t too surprising. Being introspective is very much a part of who God made me to be. And one of the things that I frequently reflect on is longing, that desire for something that lies just beyond your reach.

There are longings that are unhelpful at the least. I can’t say that I never get trapped by these, but there is another type of longing that is within every man. We were not created for this fallen world. God has placed eternity in our hearts and there are twinges of this truth within us.

This afternoon I was reading a sermon by C.S. Lewis called “The Weight of Glory.” It is a wonderful piece of writing and I would recommend that you read it. I could quote the whole of it as it gives so much to think about, but for now I would like to share a couple of excerpts from quotes that encouraged me today in regard to my longings.

“I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence…the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books and music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”

“Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door….But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

“Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point.”