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Home > Truth is a Pathless Land > Unfolding Consciousness: From Matter to Life to Mind... > The Torture of Endless Desire - Ronald Rolheiser
From Matter to Life to Mind...
The Torture of Endless Desire
Karl Rahner wrote those words and not to understand them is to risk letting restlessness become a cancer in our lives.
What do these words mean? How are we tortured by what we cannot have? We all experience this daily. In fact, for all but a privileged few, peaceful times, this torment is like an undertow to everything we experience: beauty makes us restless when it should give us peace, the love we experience with our spouse does not fulfil our longings, the relationships we have within our families seem too petty and domestic to be fulfilling, our job is hopelessly inadequate, the place we live seems boring in comparison to other places, and we are too restless to sit peacefully at our own tables and be at ease within our skins.
We are tormented by the insufficiency of everything attainable when our lives are too small for us and we live them in such a way that we are always waiting, waiting for something or somebody to come along and change things so that our real lives, as we imagine them, might begin.
I remember a story a man once shared with me on a retreat. He was 45-years-old, had a good marriage, was the father of 3 healthy children, had a secure, if unexciting job, and lived in a peaceful, if equally unexciting, neighbourhood. Yet, to use his words, he was fully inside of his own life. This was his confession:
That is what the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable feels like in actual life. But Rahner's insight is more than merely diagnostic, it is prescriptive too. It points out how we move beyond that torment, beyond the cancer of restlessness. How? By beginning to understand that here, in this life, all symphonies remain unfinished.
The reason why we are tormented is not, first of all, because we are over-sexed, hopelessly neurotic, and ungrateful persons who are too greedy to be satisfied with this life. No. The first, and deep reason, is that we are congenitally overcharged and over-built for this earth, infinite spirits living in a finite situation, hearts made for union with everything and everybody meeting only mortal persons and things. Small wonder wehave problems with insatiability, daydreams, loneliness, and restlessness! We are Grand Canyons without a bottom. Nothing, short of union with all that is, can ever fill in that void. To be tormented by restlessness is to be human.
But in accepting, truly, that humanity we become a bit more easeful in our restlessness. Why?As Rahner puts it, in this life there is no finished symphony, everything comes with an undertow of restlessness and inadequacy. This is true of everyone. As Henri Nouwen says: "Here in this world there is no such a thing as clear-cut, pure joy." Peace and restfulness can come to us only when we accept that fact.