What is Sehnsucht?

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12)

 Shot on expired 35mm Kodak HD 400 in Lowell, Indiana 

Shot on expired 35mm Kodak HD 400 in Lowell, Indiana 

 

The soft sweetness of warm air after an early summer rain.

A gentle gleam in the clouds and trees, while you drive with windows down and the smell of a perfect breeze. 

Have you ever been struck by something in the atmosphere that makes you want to go back, but to where you do not know ? Has the light ever filled you with an ardent wish to be again in a place so beautiful that to not be there is painful?  Does a beautiful piece of music evoke this in you ?

The moment is fleeting. With it's departure comes heartache, however brief it may be. 

The Germans have a word for this. SehnsuchtAt it's simplest, it means "longing" or "yearning". I described this feeling to my husband one day, a feeling I'd experienced many times before, and I was thrilled when he told me that the word existed. Still, it's only a word. It doesn't come close to conveying the exquisite sense of contentment that is just beyond our grasp. 

Have you experienced this? What does it mean to you?

 C.S. Lewis talked about it in many of his writings. He had his own theories, and I tend to agree with him. I'll leave you with this and a hope that someday your yearning is fulfilled.

 

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. 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 also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; 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 or the 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 worshipers. 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."

C.S. Lewis

 

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