Sometimes while praying the Psalms, I’m caught looking quite uncomfortably into a mirror reflecting back to me my own seeming dishonesty. For example, we pray these words in the Psalms: “My soul longs for you in the night. … Like a deer that yearns for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you my God. … For you alone do I long! For you alone do I thirst!”
If I’m honest, I have to admit that a lot of times, perhaps most times, my soul longs for a lot of things that do not seem of God. How often can I honestly pray: “For you, God, alone do I long. For you alone do I thirst!”
In my restlessness, my earthy desires and natural instincts, I long for many things that don’t appear very God-focused or heavenly at all. I suspect that’s true for most of us for good parts of our lives. Rare is the mystic who can say those prayers and mean them with her full heart on any given day.
But human desire is a complex thing. There’s a surface and there’s a depth, and in every one of our longings and motivations we can ask ourselves this: what am I really looking for here? I know what I want on the surface, here and now, but what am I ultimately longing for in this?
This discrepancy, between what we’re aware of on the surface and what’s sensed only in some dark, inchoate way at a deeper level, is what’s captured in a distinction philosophers make between what’s explicit in our awareness and what’s implicit within it.
The explicit refers to what we are aware of consciously (“I want this particular thing!”), whereas the implicit refers to the unconscious factors that are also in play but of which we are unaware. These we only sense, vaguely, in some unconscious part of our soul.
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