Behind all our activity, all our busyness, we live with the constant, gnawing sense that there’s something missing.
Often we try to hide it:
From others. From ourselves. This is the root of much of our rushing and many of our addictions (shopping, email, browsing the web, eating). But numbing ourselves in this way numbs us to the rest of life too.
Or we try to fill it:
We imagine the perfect relationship, house, holiday or job title will have the feeling go away. We pursue power, money, sex, recognition, fame. We imagine there’s a mythical island somewhere where we won’t have to feel this way. And we imagine that others – upon whom we project the image of a perfect untroubled life – live there already. All of this fuels our suffering, our desperation, and our feeling that somehow we didn’t work out how to live a properly successful life, while others did.
The feeling that there is something missing is, to our surprise, not solved by having more. See Lynne Twist’s book The Soul of Money for a first-hand account of the anguish even billionaires – those who want for nothing material – so often seem to have that their billions did nothing to assuage.
No, to live with the sense that something is missing is an essential aspect of being human. It arises from our capacity to see possibility in every person, every thing, every situation. We know, always, some sense of that which is not yet here. And it is this very capacity that affords us our creativity, our compassion, and our ability to act to improve things both for ourselves and for others.
Trying to rescue ourselves from the queasy hollow feeling of ‘missing’ fuels our obsessions and our distraction. Let’s, instead, learn to do the difficult work of turning into it, towards it, living in it and with it and from it. And then, maybe, we can respond to the situations we find ourselves in rather than reacting mindlessly, blindly, and madly to banish what cannot be made to go away.