I recently watched two movies (not at the same time.) One was an older film called “Prelude to a Kiss” with Meg Ryan and a young (cute!) Alec Baldwin, which involved an old man kissing a bride on her wedding day and the two exchanging souls/bodies–a sort of prelude to “Freaky Friday.” The young bride, fearful of life, just wants to be nearer the end, looking back on her life. The old guy, on the other hand, longs for youth.
The other film was the new Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris”, which I did not expect to like, not being a fan of Woody Allen, nor of the movie’s star, Owen Wilson. But in fact, I loved the movie, in which the OW character hops a Peugeot between present day Paris and the Paris of the 1920′s where he hobnobs with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and the Fitzgeralds. It’s a film about nostalgia. About longing. About the illusions we harbor that a life other than our own, a time other than now, might be–surely would be–better.
Sometimes I wish I’d been a Latter-Day Saint in the early days of the Restoration, when Joseph was feeling his way toward clear doctrine, when the saints gathered in awed anticipation of each new revelation, fear and joy mingled in their hearts. We’ve only vestiges left of the bonding that occurs amongst a people under siege. I miss that. And I would have reveled in the more open expression of the spiritual power of women, paradoxical in that day of limited rights. I wouldn’t have liked the clothing, but wouldn’t have minded the outhouse. I would have loved the sense of adventure beginning, that first stage of an important journey, the same way I love Mondays and New Years and sunrises.
And sometimes I look forward with longing to the days of the New Jerusalem. I’m not a city girl, but that’s a city I long to live in! Oh, for those days of peace and productivity, when we can raise our children and do our work in a world ruled not by Lucifer, but by Jesus, a world clean and singing. What might I accomplish if I didn’t have to spend so much energy battling the demons of my own soul?
I don’t even have to leave my own life’s era to pine over lost love or fantasize about the freedom of retirement. Why is it so easy to look back on certain periods of our lives–say, high school, or that year abroad, or early motherhood–and think “Ah, those were the days!” Or to long for the future, dreaming of our life without kids–or with kids, with a partner–or without, with a job–or not. Why is the grass always greener in our own time-distanced yard?
That kind of longing for what is not is obviously not helpful. There is, however, a kind of dreaming–a visualizing of a desired outcome–that can move us toward goals in a productive and useful way. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something more, something different, if what you have or what you are does not suffice or satisfy. I am reminded of those lines from the hymn: More purity give me, more strength to o’ercome, more freedom from earthstains, more longing for home. More fit for the kingdom, more used would I be, more blessed and holy–more, Savior, like thee. The whole song begs for more.
More longing for Home. That is the root of all my longing. I suspect it is the root of many of our ills, both personal and communal. I am homesick here. Despite my real love for the planet, it is not Home unless and until my Parents are here, and my Savior. I actually ache with longing to be in Their presence. I long for both the premortal past and the celestial future, because They are there. I don’t want to go back, though; I want to move forward, toward more purity, more strength, more freedom, more holiness. I want that celestial future more than anything. And I’m hoping that this sort of deep longing, this heart’s Desire, this soul-thirst for the divine, is sufficient to propel me into the presence of God. Sometimes it does, even here, even now. And those small snatches of communion with Divinity light my way Home.
What do you long for?