"A human soul devoid of longing was a soul deformed, deprived of its highest good, sick unto death." Saul Bellow, Ravelstein, page 15.
Longing. It's hardly high up on the list of things most of us would enumerate if we were asked what the ingredients for happiness might be. And yet, here's Bellow characterizing it as the soul's highest good. Interesting.
There's a scene in an old Seinfeld show where, sitting in the diner, Kramer looks at George.
Kramer: "Do you ever yearn?"
George: "Yearn? Do I yearn?"
Kramer: "I yearn."
George: "You yearn?"
Kramer: "Oh, yes. Yes, I yearn. Often I sit...and yearn. Have you yearned?"
George: "Well not recently. I craved."
Longing. Yearning. Even if not actual craving. It's something not to be forgotten.
There's also this often quoted statement, variously attributed to Joseph Addison, George Washington Burnap, and Alexander Chalmers. And, who knows? Maybe they each wrote:
"Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."
There's a view abroad in the culture now that happiness is all about fulfilled desires, completed attainment, and personal achievement. A more enlightened version would equate, or at least strongly connect, happiness with a fulfillment of the right desires, the proper attainment, or achievement of the right things, in the right ways, with the right people.
But Bellow, Kramer, Addison, Burnap, and Chalmers are all onto something. The great zen masters and our other enlightened emissaries from the east have taught us the importance of living in the present moment. But there is a reminder here that we also in some way properly span time. To live in the present, lean into the future, and learn from the past are all aspects of the happy life.
It's perhaps as good to yearn as it is to learn. Then, in the best ways, we can live and be.
In a deeply rich present. Today.