A Longing for Permanence

It seems that all human beings have a longing for permanence, and we should ask ourselves the question,“is this merely a psychological phenomenon, or is it a reality that is wired into my very being?”

Could it be that our yearning to endure, our innate sense of permanence and the eternal, actually points to a reality that we have yet to discover?

C.S. Lewis poses the problem very neatly by asking, “If we really are the product of a materialistic universe, why don’t we feel at home in a world where we die and disintegrate?”

Why don’t we feel at home? It is an important question, integral to the choices we make in life.

Lewis goes on to suggest that the reason we rage against death is because we were made to live eternally outside of time, outside of matter. We know there is something more to life than death; yet we also know that there is something eternal to satisfy our need. Still, the reality of death betrays us. It takes from us what we believe is rightfully ours.

As we are temporal beings, death and disintegration should seem quite natural to us; there should be no expectation of permanence. To the contrary, however, we find it difficult to feel at home in a universe of death. Lewis reasons there must be something in us – something about us as humans – which is not merely temporal but is eternal.

Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes (3:11), gives us the most straightforward explanation of this innate desire for an eternal existence by revealing that “God has placed eternity in our hearts.” We naturally yearn for a life that is eternally significant. It is in our hearts.

Let us look at it perhaps from another angle. Consider that humans have a daily need for water, and this, for the sake of argument, is a strong indication that water exists. Now let us imagine an individual who has been working for hours in the hot sun. Suddenly a falling tree limb smashes him in his head. After a few hours he awakens from the knockout blow, and he can’t remember a single thing; amnesia grips him. Our working man now knows nothing of the world around him, but he still experiences an immediate, instinctual need to satisfy an intense, literal thirst.

What is he thirsting for? He can’t seem to find the words to sum up the object of this desire called “thirst”; he can neither express nor visualize the need nor the object which promises to satisfy the need. He simply knows that both the desire and the object of the desire do, in fact, exist. Must the working man see, touch, or hear water in order to know that it actually exists?

In a similar manner, could the basis for our having a deep longing for permanence be that maybe we are eternal beings? Does it not seem odd that we would have a fundamental, apparently instinctual yearning for something that does not exist?


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