Absence Makes the Heart


There’s a thought that keeps going through my head. It keeps taking on different phrasings, different applications, different aspects, but its essence is this: What we crave is a part of who we are. Obvious in one sense, but we get so attuned to the thought of our hungers, our nostalgia, our ambitions, as being the essential absence of something, it can be strange and revelatory to think of them as something precious.

We have rituals of self-denial, new diets and old religions, to train ourselves to live alongside our longings – our longings, holes that just sink further and further down the more mass you throw into them. Maybe, for you, waiting just long enough is part of really enjoying the things you get, savoring the moment before the moment, the inner wires pulled taut – maybe, for you, knowing that you’ll never have something can be its own comfort, a relief, a freedom.

But then, sometimes you really do need to eat. Sometimes you need medicine, sometimes you need shelter. There’s a world of difference between the things we need and the things we crave. Sometimes we die of sadness wishing for something to cheer us up. Sometimes we wither from loneliness, wishing someone cared. Sometimes, while our world crumbles, our body weakens, and our mind dulls, yet we still crave something pointless, absurd, and impossible.

It feels strange to me that two such different categories of want could ever share the same words – not just a matter of their magnitude, but of their very nature. Hierarchies of need seem totally inadequate to describe the tangle of fanciful and pragmatic desires that gush through a human heart at any given moment.

I don’t know. I’ve never been truly hungry. I’ve never been so sad or lonely or depressed that I ceased to exist. I’ve never been truly exposed to the elements with no shelter to hide in. I only have this stack of ambitions and disappointments, hopes and frustrations, through which to every day see the silhouette of who I’m trying to be.


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