Story type: Essay
Maybe I am all wrong about it, yet I cannot help believing that the spirit of man will live again in a better world than ours. Fenelon says: “Justice demands another life to make good the inequalities of this.” Astronomers prophesy the existence of stars long before they can see them. They know where they ought to be, and training their telescopes in that direction they wait, knowing they shall find them.
Materially, no one can imagine anything more beautiful than this earth, for the simple reason that we cannot imagine anything we have not seen; we may make new combinations, but the whole is made up of parts of things with which we are familiar. This great green earth out of which we have sprung, of which we are a part, that supports our bodies which must return to it to repay the loan, is very, very beautiful.
But the spirit of man is not fully at home here; as we grow in soul and intellect, we hear, and hear again, a voice which says: “Arise and get thee hence, for this is not thy rest.” And the greater and nobler and more sublime the spirit, the more constant is the discontent. Discontent may come from various causes, so it will not do to assume that the discontented ones are always the pure in heart, but it is a fact that the wise and excellent have all known the meaning of world-weariness. The more you study and appreciate this life, the more sure you are that this is not all. You pillow your head upon Mother Earth, listen to her heart-throb, and even as your spirit is filled with the love of her, your gladness is half pain and there comes to you a joy that hurts. To look upon the most exalted forms of beauty, such as sunset at sea, the coming of a storm on the prairie, or the sublime majesty of the mountains, begets a sense of sadness, an increasing loneliness. It is not enough to say that man encroaches on man so that we are really deprived of our freedom, that civilization is caused by a bacillus, and that from a natural condition we have gotten into a hurly-burly where rivalry is rife–all this may be true, but beyond and outside of all this there is no physical environment in way of plenty which earth can supply, that will give the tired soul peace. They are the happiest who have the least; and the fable of the stricken king and the shirtless beggar contains the germ of truth. The wise hold all earthly ties very lightly–they are stripping for eternity.
World-weariness is only a desire for a better spiritual condition. There is more to be written on this subject of world-pain–to exhaust the theme would require a book. And certain it is that I have no wish to say the final word on any topic. The gentle reader has certain rights, and among these is the privilege of summing up the case.
But the fact holds that world-pain is a form of desire. All desires are just, proper and right; and their gratification is the means by which nature supplies us that which we need.
Desire not only causes us to seek that which we need, but is a form of attraction by which the good is brought to us, just as the amoebae create a swirl in the waters that brings their food within reach.
Every desire in nature has a fixed and definite purpose in the Divine Economy, and every desire has its proper gratification. If we desire the close friendship of a certain person, it is because that person has certain soul-qualities that we do not possess, and which complement our own.
Through desire do we come into possession of our own; by submitting to its beckonings we add cubits to our stature; and we also give out to others our own attributes, without becoming poorer, for soul is not limited. All nature is a symbol of spirit, and so I am forced to believe that somewhere there must be a proper gratification for this mysterious nostalgia of the soul.
The Valhalla of the Norseman, the Nirvana of the Hindu, the Heaven of the Christian are natural hopes of beings whose cares and disappointments here are softened by belief that somewhere, Thor, Brahma or God gives compensation.
The Eternal Unities require a condition where men and women shall be permitted to love and not to sorrow; where the tyranny of things hated shall not prevail, nor that for which the heart yearns turn to ashes at our touch.