October 26: Toska of the Soul

[This post was not written recently. I have many drafts saved here, and I am going through them and posting some of those I wrote last semester. I didn’t post them at the time I wrote them for various reasons which do not bear explanation, but I am going to put some of them up now. This post was written on October 26, after the first meeting of The Odd Society, at which we read Tolkien’s works. Have I told you about The Odd Society? Do let me know – I must, sometime, if I haven’t. I wrote this after our first meeting, at which there were only four of us, and at which we read passages of Tolkien’s many works until late in the night. Afterwards we stood in the stairwell and sang, and the echoes ringing all the way from the second floor landing up to the fourth and down to the first was the most sublime sound I have ever heard.]

The words you read, they make you cry. Good tears, and yet not. Happy tears, and yet not. Eager tears, and yet…and yet there is longing there that frightens you. You haven’t learned how to deal with this longing – how to touch it without aching, burning up inside, feeling your soul split by it. Like white light through a prism. You haven’t figured out how to hold on to yourself, to your mind, your heart, your body, but let the longing take your soul. For you know that your soul really isn’t your own to keep. And yet you cannot, you don’t know how to, let go of it. You shake under the weight of wishing that you did.

The longing that you have no words to describe wells unquenchable. The longing that has no definition. You haven’t felt it in a long time, and you almost wish you weren’t feeling it again now. You had forgot the strength of the pull, forgot the raw edges of the hole this longing leaves within you, gaping, grasping, turning you inside-out with the force of its hunger. You catch yourself starting to wish you could forget the longing forever, but you know that is not what you want. Because you know that in that ache is the answer you seek. You know that it leads to your own Straight Path, to your own West of all things, to your own last and final Turn. You don’t know how. You don’t know when, or where. But even in the emptiness of this mortality that is a gift, that is a snare, you know it’s there.

The words you read, they make you cry. Because in them, you see someone else’s answer, someone else’s great eucatastrophic Turn. Someone else’s Joy. And it is more beautiful than Reality itself, with all its wonder and glory and cold, hard edges and straight lines. And all of your soul wishes that answer could be yours, but it’s not and never can be. Answers like this, to questions like these…they are things you must find for yourself. You know you cannot borrow yours from someone else. You can grab hold of these other answers, yes, and lean upon them and absorb them into your soul, but they cannot be wholly yours, because you cannot be wholly theirs. There is some part of you, always some part of you, that is different, and you cannot change that. You aren’t sure if you would change it if you could. Some days, miraculously, you feel that the difference in your soul is beautiful and good, and you stop wishing it away, stop wishing yourself invisible, for a moment. Some days, you are glad that your answer, when you find it, will be your own, and unique to you, like some wild thing that has sat quietly and still long enough to tame you, name you to itself. Some days you know that this is the best way. Other days, you just hurt.

But even through this ache, these words, this enchantment, this great overflowing of power and glory, your heart is rising. The music heralds an end, yet you understand that it is really just a beginning. Your voice leaps with your heart, mingles, fills the tall space with more power than you knew existed. Together, your song and others touch the stars and brush the furthest reaches of deep heaven. Three voices sounding like a thousand, and no one there to hear but God Himself.

This is not happiness. This is not excitement. This is not beauty. This is a sobbing, violent Joy. This is a shaking, towering Alive. This is, somehow, in some way that you do not understand yet…this is, maybe, Truth.

And you know that if you had never come to this place, you would never have felt this way. You would never have learned that your soul does not belong to you. You would never have discovered how deeply your longing could hurt you. You would never have felt how beautifully the scars of that hurt could heal, could mold themselves into you, grafted to the skin of your heart, your mind, your strength, and carry you onward. If you had never come here, you would never have understood the depth of who you are and who you could be, or who you never will become. If you had never come here, you would never have realized that what you thought terribly complex was really the simplest of things. That what you thought difficult was far too easy. That what you thought real was too much so. You would never have discovered how much more you could long for, how much deeper you could feel, how much wider you could see. And you would never have discovered that all these things, this depth of feeling, of longing, this great expanse of sight and experience, all these things…you would never have understood that they are not enough, and never can be, and never will be. You would never have learned that you, too, are not enough. And maybe that would have been better. It would have been simpler, yes, and easier, and not so frightening. It would not have held so much of the hurt that echoes, reverberations of the longing ache in your soul. It would have been better, in that way, perhaps.

But also it would have been empty. And is not that really just another way of knowing this toska of your soul?

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Bessie Lark says:

    …I teared up in that third paragraph.

    Like

  2. Lalaithiel says:

    I just love this, Anna. The third and last two paragraphs are especially relatable. <3

    Like

  3. lilthariel says:

    Ow. This is beautiful. Painfully beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. </3

    Like

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