Learning from yearning
Back in January 2014, I wrote a post about how frequently I ran into the same person when I was in a bookstore. It wasn’t every time, but it was often enough to not surprise me when I saw him again.
The person I used to run into was Melancholy.
I said in that post that I think it was because “I am running face to face into my finiteness.” So many books to read. So little time.
I’m using some of that time these days to read Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark. It’s rare to read someone who reflects your own un-articulated thoughts back to you… articulated. “That’s exactly how I think!” I find myself regularly dumbfounded as he playfully picks the words to describe some of my own unspoken musings. Do you ever feel like you know someone (or that they know you) when you read something they’ve written?
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Andrew is that person. I feel like we would be friends if proximity and livelihoods had arranged for the frequency that forming a friendship requires. In my mind, we are on a first-name basis since he seems to be have walked in my soul and been able to write about what he’s seen.
In a footnote in one chapter, I discovered why I run into Melancholy in bookstores. Peterson identifies that ethereal, untangible feeling as “sehnsucht.”
“It is an untranslatable compound German word… and it roughly means an inconsolable yearning or wistful longing for something one cannot explain or does not know. When I came upon this word, I was relieved to find such a concise way of describing this nearly incommunicable feeling.”1
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