From the commercial madness of America’s mid-term election season to nationwide protests originating from Ferguson, Missouri, it’s all left me with a couple of questions: What is really going on inside of us? What does all of the political and social angst have in common?
I would suggest at least a common Hiraeth, a yearning for home. Things are not right; there is a longing for the rightness of what only a true sense of home can provide. Hiraeth is a Celtic and Welsh term to depict this extreme yearning for home and hearth. The Celtic missionaries, because of their deep love for family and community, called this a “white martyrdom.” To leave home for the gospel was the hardest to endure; it was a lifetime of Hiraeth.
I think that Hiraeth is where reality and our internal “oughts” collide. These “oughts” are our true sense of home and hearth that we long for. The world ought to be just, people ought to treat one another fairly, liberty ought to be free, individuals ought to have a voice, equality ought to be the lifeline of society, community ought to mean that there is enough for everyone, tyranny ought to be opposed for the goodness of all the people. Is this not what these angrily opposing political parties are voicing? They are dissatisfied, they are ardently disappointed, they long for the rightness of themselves and others. It is a yearning for the place that is right, the place I would call the sense of “home and hearth” in our memories and imaginations.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way” (Mere Christianity, page 8, in reference to the Law of Nature).
Does this all speak to a larger brokenness? Yes, that resonates deeply with me as a follower of Jesus. We are not home. We wander as aliens and strangers on this side of the veil. We long for the “home” of the other side, but our Hiraeth does not leave us passive. We understand that his prayer was that his Kingdom would come “on earth as it is in heaven.” We yearn for the cause of justice, for the plight of the poor, for the suffering and downtrodden. If the poor, the orphaned, the destitute, are not at peace, then we ought not to be at peace. We ought to be stirred to action. I may have a different approach to my politic than the political party commercials we are bombarded with, but I join in the stirring. Things are not as they “ought” to be; I yearn for rightness too.
So in my community, in my neighborhood, in my city, I join in solidarity with all those voicing their protest that things are not as they “ought” to be. My cry is with them; it is Hiraeth, a longing for home.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Ben Salter