The Great Desire

Photos: the afternoon walking commute

October 22nd, 9:01 am. I’m walking to work. The sun is still behind the Chugach mountains; it tinges pink the hovering clouds. Sunset will be at 6:22 pm this evening. We are two months from solstice, but the days already are significantly shorter than just a couple of weeks ago. The long nights of winter used to be lit by snow, but with temperatures here in the Anchorage bowl well above freezing, there is no snow to lighten the way.

Climate change is notable in the Arctic: today’s temperatures in the mid to high 30s and 40s are typical of mid-September—not October. It is a new world. And the path is unclear. Unlike my path to work, the one I’ve taken on many summer mornings, the path into climate change or any shadowy unknown, is hard to walk.

Here, in the chilly darkness with only the sound of my footsteps and breath, I can move beyond the typical experience of myself and the environment and focus on the unseen world of the sacred. Ronald Rolheiser in his book The Holy Longing calls the sacred space a place of desire, of restlessness, of the fire inside. This is a spiritual aliveness, emotionally, physically, and mentally arousing; it compels us to desire beauty and love, it inspires joy and creativity. But it also can be a painful desire that leads to a frustrated, lonely seeking.

Rolheiser claimed that spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with [our] desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us. Spirituality is living and channeling eros, what Sigmund Freud called the libido, and how we channel it determines whether we lead lives of …greater integration or disintegration within our bodies, minds, and souls, and to a greater integration or disintegration in the way we are related to God, others, and the cosmic world (Rolheiser, The Holy Longing, p. 11).

It will be awhile before the snow comes. In the meantime, I’ll be walking in the dark, feeling the frustrated desire, the longing, the search for the Beloved. The life worth living.

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