Longing, Sehnsucht

Changing Paths challenge day 23 — longing.

There are various words in other languages that can be approximately translated as longing or yearning. Sehnsucht (German), a longing for a person or a place. Saudade (Portuguese), melancholic longing for a person or a place. Hiraeth (Welsh), a longing for home, possibly unattainable since we cannot revisit the past. Tizita (Amharic-Ethiopian), a longing or yearning, which has given its name to a style of music. Romanian has the word dor, which comes from the Latin word dolus which means “pain” and is related to the Romanian word durere (which means “pain”).

Dor, Nicolae Vermont (1866 – 1932)

The Cornish and Breton equivalents are hireth and hiraezh. A similar Scottish Gaelic term, cianalas, also refers to a type of longing or homesickness, often used in relation to the Outer Hebrides.

CS Lewis tried to make Sehnsucht into the soul’s yearning for God or Heaven. I disagree about this. I mean he was at liberty to extend the meaning of the word for his purposes however he wanted, but I don’t use it to mean that.

Sehnsucht, 1895, by Oskar Schwintzer

I agree that the soul wants to return to a time before the cares and expectations of the world were piled upon it; but this is what Taoism calls the Uncarved Block, and what Pagans call the authentic self.

But the discovery of the authentic self does not lie in the past, it lies in the future. We can recover the childhood sense of wonder and beauty and view it through adult eyes. It won’t be the same, because as Herodotus pointed out, you cannot step in the same river twice — the water you stepped in previously will have flowed down to the sea — but you can still recover wonder and magic and mythopoetic awareness.

Hiraeth (source: unknown)
Saudade, 1899, José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior
Tizita, by Afewerk Tekle

Changing Paths is published by 1000Volt Press and is available from all the usual online stores. Ask your local bookseller or library to stock it!

The goal of the book is to help you decide your own path by guiding you through the perils and pitfalls of the terrain, and asking questions to help you deepen your understanding of the reasons for your desire to change paths.

One thought on “Longing, Sehnsucht

  1. Pingback: Longing | Dowsing for Divinity

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