“All my life, longings lived inside me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night.” – Sue Monk Kidd
Have you seen the new Disney+ movie Soul? To give away the ending, the main character, Joe, realizes that his lifelong dream of being a professional musician is actually not the raison d’etre of his life. He spent a lifetime with this one, singular goal, only to realize through the eyes of a new friend, that life’s happiness actually resides in the little splendours, the small joys, the tiny sparks in our day-to-day: watching a maple seed helicopter in the wind, the taste of a lollipop, the scent of freshly made pizza. The message is that life is less about what you do, and more about how you choose to live.
I was reminded of this message while reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. A fictional story about the wife of Jesus, I was fascinated from the get-go by this type of character. I’m not here to discuss the merits of the story from a historical perspective–it’s fiction, after all–but as someone who is more about spirituality than religion itself, I love this notion that Jesus had a wife, and the idea of whom such a wife would have to be. Like it or don’t like it, my own personal perspective on Jesus is that he was just a man, like any man, walking the earth in search of a more meaningful life. The difference, in my mind, between Jesus and the average Judas is that he learned how to go within, he learned how to speak the language of the universe, he learned to find joy in the everyday. The book is careful to depict him as a working man, going wherever he can to find work to support his family. Whether fishing, or doing carpentry, or working construction, the work he did mattered little to his spiritual progress. His ambitions were not professional.
Let me be clear: I believe we are all capable of achieving this level of meaning in our lives. But very few of us do.
So if Sue Monk Kidd wondered who the wife of such a person could be, I think she hit the nail on the head. Fiery of spirit, independent of mind, courageously vocal, the character Ana is also a thinker and a feeler, naturally motivated to follow her heart from within. The spirit of Ana speaks to the spirit of me, and tells me that my own longings are ages deep. When she speaks of the longings in her heart of hearts–the longing to be a voice of women, a voice to be heard–it reminds me of the longings in my own heart of hearts, which are not that different.
For years I thought that my purpose in life was to write. Writing is really the only thing I have consistently been driven and inspired by. But like Joe in Soul, like Ana, I’ve learned that even then, writing is just something I want to do in life, but still doesn’t make me who I want to be. That, I believe, is the more important question. In your heart of hearts, your longing of longings, who are you? And are you being that person? What else are we here for, if not that?