Can we see how, in one form or another, everything in creation longs to touch and to be touched? Flowers and trees stretch their leaves and limbs up to the sun, just as it reaches down to touch them. After all, to what end the timeless nature of such radiance, if not to grant life to whatever forms it temporarily animates?
We can clearly see that this invisible law of mutual attraction permeates the whole of nature. Fields of grain summon small birds to carry away their seeds; every breeze searches for something to move. Raindrops rush down to slake the thirst of a parched earth, even as water-laden clouds are drawn high into the skies so they can pour themselves out. Streams seek out rivers that rush down to merge with the sea. It's really quite clear: the great circle of life is imbued with this unique kind of "gravity" where all that lives is drawn to join itself to a larger body of life.
And, even though unable to do otherwise, we can see how all of nature's creatures work together in this way for a common good: They seek and serve each other in order to complete and perfect one another in a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. This force that draws a bee to pollinate a flower, or a predator to consume its prey, is the touch of Mother nature's plan; through it, she accounts for the continuing perfection of the almost infinite number of creatures she holds in her hands.
Yet, as beautiful and whole as this system may sound, there's literally a "catch" to the powers needed to maintain such order. While the forms and functions of these creatures evolve over time--allowing them to meet the challenges of environmental changes, their character remains essentially unchanged. They are without choice when it comes to answering the demands of their nature. The timeless migrations of great beasts, the annual return of fish, birds, or turtles to their place of birth--including the predators called there to await their passage--all of these creatures serve planetary forces that care nothing for their individual lives.
This same law of attraction is always at work within us, asserting itself upon our lower (animal) nature as well. Its influence goes unrecognized by the sleeping masses but for those "with eyes to see," its manifestations are evident in our globally accepted social conventions.
Though we may have never looked at it in this way before, a fifty-mile long, four-hundred-foot-wide stream of cars slowly rolling along on a crowded freeway is a kind of daily migration. And what is the universal need to "feather" our nest, dominate a competitor or family member, attract the best sexual partner, make babies or plans to find better "hunting" grounds?
In fact, the hidden nature of almost all that we do on a collective basis is the direct, but unseen effect of this one great unconscious desire to search out what we believe will complete us, drawing us to seek "greener pastures" by the deft touch of its magnetic hand, but never allowing us to rest. Over countless ages untold billions of us have answered nature's "call"--much in the same way as a leaf says "yes" to the wind that carries it away. Yet, what do we receive in return for our faithful, if unquestioned consent? We're provided with a fragile, deceptive contentment; our reward is a momentary sense of fulfillment that, in most cases, passes from sight as soon as do the temporary conditions that provided it for us.
Fortunately, for those who seek to discover the truth behind this almost inconsolable discontent, every now and then certain individuals appear who see things as they are. One such revelation is found in Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, written between 250 and 180 BCE, where we can glean two things at once: first, how little human consciousness has changed over countless years, and also the inevitable sorrow that comes with having searched for lasting contentment in all the wrong places. The language may be strange to our ear, but its lesson certainly isn't.
I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I got me servants and maidens. I gathered me also silver and gold. So I was great more than all that were before me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
Where are we to find a solution to this seemingly inescapable situation, where our best instincts betray us because all they're empowered to do is to sell us a return ticket to the places we just left? Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet, tells us that if we wish to bring an end to this cycle of our discontent then we must "Find the antidote in the venom!" Now let's prove the truth of this counterintuitive prescription.
Whenever we dare to stand in the light of some unwanted truth about how powerless we are to change who or what we've been--where we see that our present choices are secretly a part of what's holding us captive--we're always shown two things at once. First, and perhaps most important: we see what doesn't work; we see that our present level of understanding can't lead us to freedom because its desires are a part of what has delivered us into our "prison" of the moment. And the second part of this revelation stands in relief of the first, much like the rising sun reveals a new day. it's quite clear: we know now that if we're to succeed in our search for wholeness, we not only require a new and higher order of self-knowledge, but one that must also take us in a completely new direction. Yet, where is one to look when all the known roads through this world lead back to the same level of reality from which we started our journey?
Dr. Maurice Nicoll, noted 20th-century British psychiatrist, author, and spiritual teacher, provides us with an accurate diagnosis of our condition, as well as suggesting the new direction we must take if we wish to bring an end to our constant discontent. He stresses that if we hope to realize the lasting sense of wholeness for which we long,
we must find its secret source within us.
Man has inner necessities; his emotional life is not satisfied by outer things. His organization is not only to be explained in terms of adaptation to outer life. He needs ideas to give meaning to his existence. There is that in him that can grow and develop--some further state of himself--not lying in "tomorrow," but above him.
Here we glimpse the promise of our own greater possibilities yet unrealized; disclosed is the reason why we can't shake our sense of being incomplete in spite of all we've acquired. After all, what hope is there of finding in the world situated around us something that can answer our longing to be whole, to be one with life, when this need itself comes into us from a world above us? Small wonder we search in vain! it is a divine discontent that drives us in our search for someone or something that might grant our restless heart the peace it seeks.
None are immune to the disconcerting touch of this celestial longing. its invisible presence permeates our being and--under certain circumstances--provides a glimpse of what awaits us, just above our present nature. In such moments we come to understand--by yet another magnitude of brilliance--that what we had once taken to be the sun was nothing more than the light of a waxing moon. But don't be misled; there is nothing disheartening in moments such as these. in fact, the experience is quite the opposite. Nothing proves the existence of a timeless love more than coming face to face with the clockwork-like machinations of one's own heart.