"The greatest freedom is the freedom of longing." I have been trying to sort that out, to see if it makes sense for me.
This statement, found in some recent reading, was presented as a truism, presumably reflecting Buddhist ideas. The process of enlightenment involves a freedom from preoccupation with desires and the future: it is grounded in the now. To be asborbed with the desire for sexual fulfillment or for money, power, etc. is to be enslaved by one's own emotional life.
So far so good. I can't argue with that and in fact believe strongly in the power of the present as the only reality, where God is to be found. I have written about Christian mindfulness, exploring this idea in detail.
But as I think about longing, I also think, from the Western (Christian) angle, of the ongoing longing for beauty or happiness that motivates my life--even the longing for the deliverance of death if I were suffering with incurable pain. Such longing seems natural. It is related to hope, the calm expectation that pain will cease, that friends will call, that a trip may be both possible and rewarding, a longing for greater and greater degrees of love, of more and more beauty, whether in art or music or nature. The hope that the earthly struggle and pain of existence will one day come to an end so that I can be released into an unknown joy.
I keep thinking of the Psalms with the longing of the soul for God, unreachable yet with a motivating energy, pushing us toward greater perfection in prayer. We long for a peace that surpasses understanding even though it can't find fulfillment on this earth.
Of course, our hearts are restless with a burning longing that is frustrating and never satisfied: these are the desires to be burned away. They take us out of the present into worry and mental anguish. But there is also the refining fire of peaceful longing, I think, that longing of trust that involves hope.
I hope this is not so abstract that it's unclear or meaningless. There seems to be a difference between the freedom from desire (longing) and the need for spiritual longing, even if that longing has to do with earthly beauty and pleasure. I never want to be free of such longing.