“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them” (George Eliot).
ONE OF OUR MOST MARVELOUS ENDOWMENTS IS THE ABILITY TO ASPIRE TO GREATER THINGS THAN THOSE WE’VE KNOWN IN THE PAST. Unlike other creatures that are bound to what “is,” we are able to contemplate what “can be.” We are capable of envisioning values and ideals that reach higher and higher.
Being careful about our aspirations is important for the simple reason that they determine the quality of our lives and the worthiness of our achievements. Whether thoughtfully considered or not, our ideals are the things we move toward. James Allen said it well: “Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your vision, your ideal. You will become as small as your controlling desire, or as great as your dominant vision.”
It makes good sense to purify and elevate our aspirations daily. We need to exercise the freedom we’ve been given and dream of ends that are more honorable than those we’ve pursued in the past. In regard to our vision of the future, we need to implement the concept of “continuous improvement.” As the days go by, we should be improving not only what we do but also what we’re trying to do.
Unfortunately, we are surrounded by forces that would rob us of our aspirations. We must resist these forces with all our might. When cynicism and discouragement threaten to drag our dreams into the gutter, we must defend our dreams. It takes a tenacious character to hold on to ideals that are mocked by our enemies, and when our dreams are unappreciated by our friends, it takes an even greater determination to stay the course. But if we ever let go of the things we long for, it should only be to exchange them for higher longings.
So we need to appreciate the importance of our aspirations. We need to improve them. We need to hold on to them. But above all, we need to desire them. The highest things that we hope for ought to be pursued with a heart that is desperately hungry. We’re not really living if we don’t let ourselves long for certain things with all our hearts.
“To love the beautiful, to desire the good, to do the best” (Moses Mendelssohn).