In several of his writings, C S Lewis makes an argument whose merit I doubted until recently. He argues that there is something that we desire, something that we do not find here on earth. I did not think that I had noticed such a desire in me when in truth, I had merely forgotten it or suppressed and ignored it. However, after reading his book, The Pilgrim’s Regress, I attended a party.
I first noticed the desire while listening to someone sing a solo and almost immediately, I realized I had felt it before. In fact, I feel it very frequently. It has been there for as long as I can remember. It takes the form of an intense longing. Lewis rightly notes that the object of this longing is very easily mistaken for something else. All my life, whenever I felt this longing, if it was when heard a beautiful song, I thought what I wanted was to be able to sing with such a beautiful voice. If it was while I was watching a ballet, I thought what I wanted to be able to dance so beautifully. So, when I heard the lady’s beautiful voice and felt that longing once again, I still did not know what it was that I really desired.
I finally saw the folly of my thinking today. I was going shopping with a friend and we were on a highway. I glanced out a window and saw a beautiful sight; the sky, with a city below it and two flags waving in the wind. Then I felt the longing. What did I want this time, that scene? To be the scene? If I took a picture of it, framed it and hung it in my home, would I stop longing? Of course not. This is the same longing we feel when we see a beautiful item in a shop. We buy because we think that it is what we want but it never satisfies. We still long, we still want.
That is a puzzling thing indeed. Lewis said that the reason these things do not satisfy is that they are not what we really want. He said that if a man desired something, he would be satisfied when he found it. If a man is thirsty and he drinks water, he is satisfied. I am not certain I believe that but I have to concede that I know of no other desires that behave in such a fashion. Desires usually disappear one they have their object. So, Lewis’ argument may be a good inductive one.
Lewis, in Mere Christianity, used it to argue for the existence of heaven. He said that every desire has an object, so if we find a desire in us that nothing on earth satisfies, it must have been made for another world.
Have you felt the desire I speak of? When and where? What do you think its object is and what do you think of Lewis’ argument?