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  • Kevin Shorner-Johnson

The Repair of Longing and (be)Longing

Updated: Jan 28

Trips down country lanes that were once breathtaking journeys across mountains are marked with yard signs of our brokenness. At a down-the-road restaurant, a worker leaned against a wall of tears in the wake of a disgruntled customer. Lines in public find us looking aside into diverse caverns of existence. I wonder, in this moment of so much disconnection, how we might find our way back to our longings for loving relations.


With the most recent time spent on a podcast with Sandeep Das, I have been reflecting on the lessons of longing and [be]longing and how those lessons might speak to the weary dissonance of the present. This podcast embues a spirit of hope that we might sound our way to better community.


when we turn our longings toward the divine within each other, we might deepen our sense of belonging and begin to repair the fragmented violence of modern cravings that never quite fill the incompleteness of our beings.

As this podcast with Das indicates, our human longings are natural, and are filled with energy necessary for connection and repair.


The story of Radha and Krishna, as sounded so beautifully in the Dehli to Damascus album, is a story of one who gives herself so completely and totally to her longing for the divine that her love becomes all-consuming. In response to the despair of departure, she is called to love the divine in others.


Other stories along Silk Roads have rich traditions of exploring longing through the language of love. In true love for the divine and the divine within others, the surrender of the self in love for the Other is a beautiful act. Our incompleteness becomes a magnetic force of community and relation.


Gandhi wrote about this kind of surrender and participated in the ritual singing of “Vaishnav Jana To,” a bhajan or devotional song featured in the podcast. This bhajan speaks of giving up forms of greed to enter the fullness of empathetic relation. Layering beauty, surrender, and love together, Gandhi notes that love has no form of domination, no form of jealousy or resentment within, “love never claims, it ever gives. Love ever suffers, never resents, never revenges itself” (Gandhi, 2002).


Gandhi noted that there can sometimes be a violence to longing, when instead of choosing to fill our incompleteness with relation, we turn to greed, jealousy, or hollow substitutions. In this time of pandemic, we may be feeling the emptiness and hurtfulness of modern appetites for more. That appetite is often at the root of domestic and geo-political violences alike.

In this time of pandemic, we may be feeling the emptiness and hurtfulness of modern appetites for more.

When do we fill the void of our incompleteness with hollow consumptions? Do we feel our falterings into deeper crevasses of distance and loneliness? How do we reclaim [be]longing within our longings?


As I enter this season 3 of studying longing and belonging, I have turned toward the writings of John O’Donohue. O’Donohue explores the beauty of longing and the relation of longing to belonging. He notes the hopefulness that we might belong to ourselves, each other, and landscapes of soil and home if we embrace our longings. He writes,

“No one can be itself completely without the other. No one can be herself without the other sisters and brothers. The one who dreamed the universe loved circles and created everything with such beautiful incompletion that we need the others to complete the circles of identity, belonging, and creativity.” (O'Donohue, 1999, p. xxv)

O’Donohue reflected that there is an “art and presence of belonging” in the negotiation between longings of curious difference and the belonging embrace of oneness.


Ushas and Artistic Stories


In episode 1 with Sandeep Das and episode 2 with Dr. Long, we explore a beautiful story of Ushas, who in Hindu traditions is the revealing of dawn. Ushas is incomplete without her sisters and relations that complete cycles of night, the breaking of dawn, and the fullness of sunlight. This sacred narrative reminds us that we belong to a world that is beautiful in its rhythm, its cycles, and its constant flux between light and dark, between longing and belonging.


Our artistic stories and imaginations connect interlocking lines of incompleteness into bridges of wholeness. Stories are the “realm of pure possibility” that offer a “form of belonging in which the full adventure of longing can be explored.” (O'Donohue, 1999, p. 36). Rooted in the beauty of sacred story, the Dehli to Damascus album opens sonic awe, wonder, and deep questions about meaning and existence.


As we take journeys of longing into the “wildness of divinity within us,” we find new ways to belong to ourselves (O'Donohue, 1999, p. 19). As we become loving to the presence within us, we simultaneously deepen our belonging with and compassion for each other. Maybe the repair of communities in this time of loneliness and fragmentation is in turning the hunger of our longings from hollow addictions to longings of sustaining love.


As I return to the HUM ensemble’s album and their artful expression of Virah and Shiva-Shakti, I hear a sonic expression of the depth of our divine longings and the possibility that when we turn our longings toward the divine within each other, we might deepen our sense of belonging and begin to repair the fragmented violence of modern cravings that never quite fill the incompleteness of our beings.


I embrace a surrender to my incompleteness, understanding that I am most alive and at home within a rich tapestry of interconnected being.




Gandhi, M. (2002). The essential Gandhi: An anthology of his writings on his life, work, and ideas (Thornton & Varenne, Eds.). New York: Vintage Books.


O’Donohue, J. (1999). Eternal echoes: Celtic reflections on our yearning to belong. New York: Harper Perennial.


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