Q Is for Quest

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Quest. It’s a “long and arduous” search for something—a true investigation and pursuit, perhaps involving sacrifice. A hunt … a plan … a journey seeking the most-dearly-sought-after, whatever it is.

As J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring: “All that is gold does not glitter; Not all those who wander are lost.” Indeed, when we are on a Quest ourselves, it is not always apparent even to those closest to us.

When an individual’s choices and actions seem to make no sense to a society that values money, fame, and pleasure above all, it is possible that person is pursuing another, less visible track.

The Inner Quest for wholeness of spirit, for a sound conscience, for purity of intention does not necessarily send up fireworks to announce its route. Better that it does not.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote that “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.”

That’s much to be preferred to pyrotechnics that might attract and dazzle—but short-circuit the Quest itself. For every soul encounters temptation to waver on its path. And flattery, even open admiration, can throw a searcher into disarray.

Of course, our questing is not always solitary or inner. Many friendships and loves have grown from a Quest for the same thing, and a realization that two may attain a goal more pleasantly and successfully than one.

But when our heart compels us to a Quest, inner or outer—we are never guaranteed company—nor success, or even survival; not fulfillment, or certain, measurable gain. Ultimately, the true Quest is for its own sake, as we can do no other.

And we will know with inner certainty the nature of the Quest to which we are called—as we discover, act, and persevere in its pursuit.

Jesus said (Matthew 6:22): “The eye is the lamp of the body, So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

It all begins with identifying our Quest and taking the first step.

What will the journey cost us? Do we have what it takes? Thomas Merton wrote in The Seven Storey Mountain: “The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer. … The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.”

The Quest calls us to gather all that we are and to concentrate our will toward the pursuit of its end: To be self-aware but not self-conscious or obsessed—a distinction discovered, learned, and honed only while one is on the Quest itself.

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6 responses »

  1. Thank you, Melanie. I like this quote from Merton, too (and it pertains to Quest):

    Thomas Merton once compared the
    spiritual life to the search for a path in a
    field of untrodden snow: “Walk across
    the snow and there is your path.”

  2. The Thomas Merton quote on suffering reminds me of another quote by Merton that I found engraved on a plaque in New Harmony, Indiana. “As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another because this love is the resetting of a body of broken bones – even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some pain at the differences that come between them. There are two things men can do about the pain of disunion with other men – the can love or they can hate.”

  3. This post also reminded me of the Questing Beast in T.H. White’s book The Once and Future King. It is the duty of the Pellinores to forever hunt the Questing Beast. When King Pellinore finally gives up the quest, the Questing Beast pines away because no one is paying it any attention. Thus King Pellinore nurses the Beast back to health and continues the quest for its own sake,

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