When is the last time you thought about that indefinable, elusive ‘something’ in your life–like a tune that haunts you but you can’t quite remember it?

Today’s question is proposed by C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain.  Lewis was especially sensitive  to such things in his own life, and helps us to think about them as well.  This quote is longer than usual, but well worth it.  Enjoy!

“You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.


Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw — but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported.


Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of — something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side?


Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for?


You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it — tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest — if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself — you would know it.


Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for”.


We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.”

Your 60-Second Question:  What deeper chords do Lewis’ descriptions strike in you?  What are you made for?

  • Have you ever found for yourself, or come close to finding, that thing that Lewis describes so evocatively?
  • How does it feel to come close to it–to get hints of it in the ways Lewis narrates–and yet still not quite capture it?
  • Do you feel motivated to continue the quest?  Or discouraged that it will always be out of reach?

In a society that often settles for easy answers, my unique 60-second Question posts are mini-voyages in self-discovery. They invite you to take just 60 seconds out of your day to ponder a question that may offer new insights into yourself, God and the world around us. You might be surprised with the new insights or feelings generated by pondering a thought-provoking question for just 60 seconds. 

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