The search within us

There are different ways in which writers describe the inherent restlessness deep within us, with which we are often uneasy and consequently work to cover over by activity or the things we do to seek recognition and success. As I have written before, mindfulness practice encourages us to come to a working understanding that there will always be a deep restlessness at the heart of life, and that is just the way things are. It does not mean there is anything wrong with our life, or with us, despite what we may feel from time to time. Another way of looking at this restlessness is seen in this quotation from the influential Canadian philosopher Bernard Lonergan. He sees it as a positive drive to know, an impulse to keep going beyond immediate experience, the root of all searching, which may never be completely satisfied:

Deep within us all, emergent when the noise of other appetites is stilled, there is a drive to know, to understand, to see why, to discover the reason, to find the cause, to explain. Just what is wanted has many names. In what precisely it consists is a matter of dispute. But the fact of inquiry is beyond all doubt. It can absorb a man. It can keep him for hours, day after day, year after year, in the narrow prison of his study or his laboratory. It can send him on dangerous voyages of exploration. It can withdraw him from other interests, other pursuits, other pleasures, other achievements. It can fill his waking thoughts, hide from him the world of ordinary affairs, invade the very fabric of his dreams. It can demand endless sacrifices that are made without regret though there is only the hope, never a certain promise, of success.

Bernard Lonergan, sj, Insight

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