Monday, March 16, 2009

My Own Far-Off Country

Took myself on a morning wander through Prospect Park a few Saturdays ago. As I was exiting the park, ready to head down the Slope to my apartment and my coffee maker, I passed this building:

If you squint in just the right way - the white columns, red brick, and green boxwood, lit by sunshine - all call to mind my alma mater, UVA. I stood there for a second, taking this picture, thinking back to those four years spent in sweet Charlottesville and the academical village that Mr. Jefferson built for us lucky Virginians.

I stood there and missed it like crazy, missed it from the tips of my toes. I stood there and wished I was standing on the Lawn of the real-deal in Virginia, instead of staring at some poor substitute in Brooklyn. It was a home-sickness both unfamiliar and acute.

The depth of this longing surprised me; I graduated almost nine years ago (Wow, can you believe that? Yeah, me neither.) and I figured my heart had moved on when my feet did. Guess not. Guess there are still pockets of deep nostalgia inside of me, missing that place and what it represents.

After a few seconds of feeling desperate to be somewhere else, I started to think about heaven a little. And I felt a bit abashed that I was capable of feeling such a strong desire to be at UVA in that moment, but very rarely do I feel that kind of longing for heaven. I tried to recall some of C.S. Lewis’ words on the subject, but I wasn’t very successful. So I looked them up on the internets and I’ll post them below. Then maybe I (and you, too, if you’re into it) can think about heaven a little more.

Excerpts from C.S. Lewis' The Weight of Glory:

"Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object… If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes… must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy…

…In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country…I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence…

…These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited…

…Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache…At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door…"

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