It’s a Saturday night in late summer, and I sense how dusk is settling faster than it has been.
The waning moon — full, just two nights prior — begins to melt into its eastern-most edges. I drive. The warm air batters my face and arms as if I’m losing a pillow fight.
I do this from time to time: drive, and drive nowhere. Though I’m doing it less lately, I’ll get in my car, put my windows down and turn on music of the moment: from rock to New Age, hip hop to alternative. And I sing. I shout over the claps of wind that surge in my windows, and reach for octaves I have no business attempting.
But I’m sure there’s magic in this sensory amalgamation of forward motion and lively air; of rhythm and self-made vibration; of solemn darkness fondled by flashes of headlights and moon light.
If it’s not magic, it’s healing.
I call out into the night and no matter the words, I realize how every song is my song of longing.
It’s my song of remembrance. Memories flash before my eyes. Past loves are recalled; regrets are considered. I feel the steps of places like Machu Picchu under my feet on my 30th birthday; the marble steps of the Rhode Island State House, just after quitting my job. I see faces of old friends; an old love at 23 who I was sure was my forever-mate, but was perhaps just one whom my soul had once known.
Whatever words I sing, the song is always one of remembrance, too: of honoring, and of remorse.
I mourn as I call out into the night for souls lost: faces unseen; ones misunderstood, and those cast aside, discarded in plain sight.
I pass one bar and another pub, and then another, and my gaze flashes in as if to sense the stories that those lives may be themselves forgetting and remembering and yearning for and struggling against — each emboldened, renewed, inspired, or battered, by fermented suds.
I tend to do this a lot, these drives. At least, I used to. I would drive in the dark and call into the night, thinking many things and dreaming many dreams, wishing for loves and pondering futures yet to unfold. But not so much anymore.
What changed, I wonder?
I suppose my longing did.
I used to call into the night for my loneliness. I used to sing out my discontent. I used to belt any song, whether in notes or in tears, to voice my angst, my anxieties, my worries — and my deep fear that, somehow, I was missing out on “real” life, letting it all pass me by.
I used to escape into the darkness thinking that if I just kept inching further along the black road, perhaps I might fall into adventure, or experience; a connection or a lover; or anything other than this moment of nothing.
I used to call into the night dreading I might fail. That my one life that I meant to live purposefully was actually hollow and vapid — a shell of comfort and privilege feigning for the cause of “Meaning” that was really just “Existence.”
But, on this most recent drive, I realize that I am “calling” for a different reason entirely.
I am calling because every night I grieve for the lost and the broken. I am calling because every morning I fall to my knees, revere the Sacred Mother, and ask to be blessed by the star of life in the sky. I am calling because each past lover deserves all my blessings and good graces: every memory, a thank you, whispered through the ether.
I was calling out on this night of nights, because my whole life has become an echo of that calling:
Filling, and emptying.
Taking in a billowing breath of thanks, and exhaling the desire to give as much as I’ve been given.
I call out into the dark night not because I’m sad, or lonely, or scared, but because I’m directly in the mess of feeling all the poles of good and bad, impassioned and exhausted, loved and alone, and ’round they twirl like dizzying batons.
I call out into the night because I long for the longing.
In a small library room two springs ago, author and Rumi scholar Coleman Barks cited the great Sufi mystic: “I long for the longing.” And in that statement, I imagined the poet clammoring for a love so vast that he could never know it. The only thing that one could do to come close, is try — and know that it could never be enough.
I think that’s what Rumi meant when he said he longed for the longing. He looked at the waning moon — so close that he could nearly kiss it — yet he knew full well that he was as far from it as he always had been; as near as he ever could be.
The stars, brilliant miracles, showing our incomprehensible smallness.
Seeing something some clearly…
Feeling something so dearly…
Knowing something so surely…
And yet still seeing nothing; doubting those very feelings; fearing just about… everything.
This, to me, is the essence of Rumi’s poetic sentiment, easily mistaken for self-deprecation or woe-is-me, if it weren’t for the truth of the matter: he wanted to long for what he longed for.
To “long for the longing” is like living the wish for wholeness, for complete love, for absolute contentment, for total peace, while knowing deep down that these feeling states and ideals are spiritual accomplishments that have no endgoal, outcome or record of achievement.
Some in this world desire achievements that can be counted or measured.
Some desire otherwise: that which cannot be fully acquired or totally owned, let alone purchased.
At most, what you can do is want for them.
Me, I long for the longing.
I know that it is my soul’s desire, pressing me ever further into the mysteries that I am desperate to know but may never understand.
I long in every word that I write, and in my gaze that scours a new face to wonder, “Could you be my lover?”
I long to exist in a state of longing for that which I can never say is finished; to sit in a seat of wanting that can’t ever become entirely fulfilled. I want that. I do. Not for self-torture, not to martyr myself, not to “make a point,” not because it’s an artistic statement to appear forlorne on your personal blog…
I long for the longing because it’s the only space between two worlds that I have found and felt as “home” to me.
Some of us exist in this lifetime to be a bridge between worlds: the physical realm where most live and play and love and suffer, and the ether, an infinite beyond that invisibly makes us ourselves and so much more than what we can see, or touch, or hardly believe.
Maybe that’s what Rumi meant in his ode, “I long for the longing.”
If poets and mystics and spirituals like him didn’t yearn for the invisible “It” that can’t ever ben defined, captured or possessed, then we would never witness his poems, or paintings, or love songs.
If those like you and me didn’t long for the longing, the rest of the world could never receive our many attempts to call “It” by name: Source, Spirit, the Universe, Divine Creator, Dear Friend, Sacred Mother, Ra, Goddess, Yaweh, God.
What message I wish to share with you today, friend, is to keep longing for the longing.
Don’t be afraid to live between two worlds, and in your words and deeds function as a bridge, a conduit, between what can’t be seen and all that can be made real.
Live between the dream, and awake; exist between the hand, and the moon; live in grace and gratitude between the longing you long for now… and the longing that is yet to come.
Know for certain that more longing will come.
We need you to long. To daydream. To vision. To imagine. To stir with a twinge of restless desire if only it makes you look up to the stars, or drive into the night, or call out in song, all to yoke with the Source.
We follow your lead, dear Rumi.
I’d have it no other way.