“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” became a sort of anthem for a generation or two of seekers after it’s release in 1987 on U-2’s second album.
There is a sense in which the human “reach” will always “exceed its grasp” (Browning). Having achieved, we want more, and we wonder what we might have missed down that other “road.” Frost cynically suggests that either way amounts to about the same thing; but our hearts aren’t so sure.
Often we discover that the joy is actually in the search, the hunt, not the quarry. Finding what we seek is usually the end of the fun. It is hard to imagine a concert jam around the lyrics, “I have found it, I have found it.”
We are focused beings, even the most distracted of us. And scientists tell us that we tend to find exactly what we are looking for. And miss what we are not looking for. Here’s this from Psychology Today:
One recent study asked a group of radiologists to examine a series of chest x-rays, just as they would if looking for lung cancer. Unknown to the radiologists, though, the researchers had inserted into the x-rays a picture of something no professional would ever expect to see: a gorilla. The picture of the gorilla wasn’t tiny; it was about 45 times the size of the average cancerous lung nodule – or about the size of a matchbook in your lung.
How many of the radiologists spotted the gorilla?
Very few. Some 83 percent of the radiologists missed the gorilla – even though eye-tracking showed that most of them had looked right at it.
I take all this first as a reminder that there is a whole lot of stuff I am missing, especially in the people in my life. We naturally look for evidence to confirm our biases. If I am convinced a person has a problem, I will certainly find it. If I think they have great potential, I will find that.
There is far more “out there” (and “in there”) than we can ever take in, though we like to think otherwise. So, having discovered something, and found a tidy place for it in my life-model, I need to ask myself, is there anything else I need to consider? What might be right under my nose?
The second challenge for me is to recognize that I may subconsciously prolong my quest in order to delay arrival. There are some conclusions I would prefer to avoid especially those that would require a change of plans, or friends. Better to keep collecting more information to make sure. When the quest ends I might have to forfeit my identity as a “seeker” and become — Heaven forbid! — a “settler.” That is not what I am looking for!
There is something in even the most committed “home-body” that longs for a goal, a purpose, a stretch. It may not be a grand quest for meaning or discovery. But deep inside we have an intuition that there is “more.”
The voice of caution says, “Yes, there is more, and it is probably dangerous and worse than what you have. You’ve worked hard for this. Be grateful. Sit tight!” The voice of adventure says, “Maybe not. Don’t be afraid. You might be missing something wonderful.”
All of us find ways to make peace with this tension. Though we are probably “wired” in one direction more than the other from birth, we will fluctuate a bit through the life cycle. In any community, at any point in time, there will always be those who “hold down the fort” while others go scouting.
My father told me about a man he knew as a boy who made his first trip out of Henderson County to travel to St Louis by rail. When he returned all he could say was, “Fellas, if the world’s as big this’a way as she is that, then she’s a whopper!”
When Job was wrapped up in his grief and dismay and anger, God did not answer his questions but gave him a peek at the bigger picture. He showed him that reality is a “whopper.” There’s more to it than any of us can fathom. There’s more to each of us than any of us can understand.
In his two epistles St. Peter reminds us that as residents in the Kingdom we will all always be exiles, pilgrims, and sojourners here. Hebrews 13:14 says: For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. So we tread lightly, with curiosity and delight, anticipating the day when every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess…. when every tear is wiped away, the coming of a new Heaven and a new Earth.
In the meantime our job is to be a living preview of things to come. To show the world what it is looking for and invite them on the quest.