Of course modern and post-modern Western minds scoff. The only difference between the modern and post-modern minds is that the latter is more consistently cynical, and even that difference does not obtain here. And for good reason: If only for maturation's sake, we are taught not to assume that desiring X is evidence that X exists to satisfy the desire. I desire freedom from death, or failing that, freedom from the natural consequences of sexual license; yet as they're fond of saying in the South, that ain't gonna happen. (The South has some wonderful sayings, such as "Y'cain't win fer losin'...") I desire that the tree in my yard grow money, but that ain't gonna happen either—and if it did, the government and my ex would find a way to get most of it anyhow. We all know that we can and why we should outgrow desires we know cannot be satisfied.
But can we or should we outgrow what the Germans call sehnsucht? I mean what Lewis meant:
That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World's End, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan", the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.We've all experienced that. But most of us can't name the desire itself, still less its object; and as we age, most of us tend to forget it. We assume it's the fantasy of children and poets, and fear that dwelling on it would inhibit the "real" business of life. Indeed, as Lewis taught us, even the experience of it cannot be summoned up by wishing or seeking. And so it would seem that sehnsucht tells us nothing about any "beyond." For many of those capable of even discussing the matter, sehnsucht is just part of our makeup, full stop. Perhaps it's our brain chemistry. As such, it may have "adaptive" value, by virtue of causing some people to believe that all the pain and suffering of life is worthwhile in terms of a beautiful Reality beyond what the world has to offer. Such a belief motivates many to carry on and stay relatively sane. But sehnsucht is not, really, evidence of any such Reality. Or is it?