It’s Autumn again, and I am sitting inside a pale room, lit with tedious halogen lighting. Nothing out of the ordinary is happening, life itself seems to be slowly falling into a disenchanted slumber. I close my eyes and think of Autumn. I can imagine a vividly colored outbreak of leaves floating like kites in the sky. Then I remember all the autumns of the past: jumping into a large piles of leaves, sipping hot chocolate while the cold air stings my face, burning fallen debris in a large fire near a shallow stream. I can hear popping and cackle of the fire and smell the smoke as it sears my clothes.
Just remembering the season of Fall brings a wave of emotion crashing into me. I turn on the soundtrack from the Lord of the Rings and it further invigorates the feeling. I am now awash with feelings, sentiments, sensations, and most interestingly, a longing. If feels so familiar, as if I have seen or heard it before, I desperately try to grasp at the memory of what I’m yearning for. It’s so near I can touch it, yet its infinitely far away. It’s as if I am recalling the future. Craving something I know and yet have never touched.
Childhood dreams and fairy tales
This is not the first time I’ve felt this aching longing. Even as a child I remember feeling it and the rush of melancholy and nostalgia that came with it. This desire was often evoked by thinking about something far away and so astonishing it overwhelmed peoples mundane lives and thoughts. As an elementary and Jr. high school student I would bury myself in fiction, reading of faraway lands, magical worlds, and the glorious battles between good and evil. I remember tearing through the Narnia series and feeling such a great connection with the characters, who lived in a dull and dreary world yet found that their real purpose and calling was in a world yet unknown. I would lie in bed and fantasize hoping and wishing I could leave this world and enter another filled with mysteries, purpose, quests, and “glory.” In the sixth grade I saw Star Wars, and I vividly remember thinking that I was like Luke Skywalker, living on a simple desert planet with no purpose other than survival, and hoping just like Skywalker one day a spaceship would fly in and tell me I am the descendant of someone important and have a destiny. I literally longed for it and the feeling of yearning was sweet to my taste.
Reviving the Desire
Ever since first feeling the Desire (from now on capitalized to distinguish it from regular human desires like hunger, thirst, or pride), I would try as hard as I could to re-capture it. I would seek it with all my energy and effort. I would scroll past hundreds of movies to find one that made me feel emotional like the Lord of the Rings did the first time. I would try to find a hauntingly beautiful and melancholy melody that would revive the Desire or pour through a library to find the one book that bring it back.
In some cases I’ve tried to awaken the Desire by going back to the same object that started it (literature, music, film, place, person etc.) I found that often the object itself wasn’t strong enough to cause any kind of stir in my emotions; Star Wars today cannot bring back the longing I had when watching it as a kid, yet other things like music can launch me into a waterfall of feelings (This song by Annie Lennox called “Into the west” will always do it, it’s the last song in the Lord of the Rings, and symbolizes the end of a journey.) Another thing that also evokes the feeling of longing for something familiar yet unknown is the autumn season; a rush of colored leaves will do it every time.
Truth is, it’s been so many years since I first discovered it, but I still have the Desire.
The Theological Explanation
I think that at some point in their life, most people experience this feeling, in fact I think every story ever told, every legend, fable, and fairy tale is made specifically for us to feel that new, yet ancient longing. Every artist who paints a picture desires to put into art what he longs for, every musician at least once feels it and writes a song that is laced with a deeper longing than this world can contain. The poets through all the ages have laced together words inexplicably feeding a strong yearning in many men and women. Every fantasy writer and/or movie director has at least once been so moved by this desire that he or she has began to create works that could somehow try to revive or at least disclose that feeling to others. Many girls have found the Desire while yearning to find a magical romance that is inexplicably out of this world, just as many boys have awoken themselves to it while dreaming of great adventures. There are many seasons and stimuli that can awaken the Desire, but it most definitely exists, even while we are unaware of what it is.
There can only be one explanation for it.
I think that this Desire is evidence of a God who transcends everything we know.
That we see so many fiction books and movies, so much art and music, romance and nostalgia, is evidence for only one thing: we were made for something more than this world has to offer. We hunger because we were made to eat, or thirst because we were made to drink. We feel lonely because we were made to be in community. We desire to fulfill our purpose (even as sinners who desire sin, we want that thing which would fulfill the function we have fallen into.) And this longing or Desire points us to something else we were made for. A world and life we don’t know. It’s as if we can remember it, yet its in the future. It’s as if we are child, just born, who feels hunger for the first time. He hasn’t yet tasted food, but that rumbling in his little stomach is familiar like a memory. A memory of what he will get in the future.
CS. Lewis once said in Mere Christianity:”If I find in myself a Desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
That brings me to the last question. Why autumn? Of all the things above, autumn often sticks out as awakening the Desire more than any time period. Other seasons do suggest in us a longing for something, yet they come in the form of nostalgia, we are reminded of memories we had during the summer or winter and long for the simplicity during that time and etc. However, it seems there is something special about fall, more particular than nostalgic memories. Fall seems to evoke the Desire in and of itself.
My hypothesis (or I should say my guess) is that this is because fall is the season of dying. For ages literature associates Autumn with melancholy and death. Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote a poem The Wild Swans at Coole, in which he contemplates that his life is slowly passing as the summer passed. He finds comparison between the season of fall that ends summer and his own upcoming death that will end his life. So thus Autumn is the end of summer, a time to sow our seeds and plant our vineyards, a time to live and to enjoy life. This is inevitably followed by Autumn as cold seeps in where there once was warmth. The leaves display one last burst of color before slowly making their descent into death. Flowers that bloomed with beauty wilt into nothingness. It is the end for many living things.
Yet I am convinced that when we think of fall it is not only death that appears in our minds, but also a sense of adventure. Could it be that humans are hard wired to feel their own mortality quickly escaping and associate it with both the fear of dying and the Desire to enter that great adventure? Could it be that every one of us not only knows we will cease to exist here, but also remembers that at one point we did not live on the earth and we are going to see where we came from and why?
And even more so, while we are physically scared of death, maybe just maybe we secretly Desire to die knowing that it leads to the greatest adventure of all time, to finding the world that we really were made for and to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
C.S. Lewis also said “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Maybe the nearer we are to finding the Reason for our Desire, the stronger it gets, just like the closer we are to finally eating the more hungry we feel.