Longing for What No Longer Exists


Magic Barn on Amazon

As a writer, I have noticed that English is rather limited. What is the word for longing for a thing that no longer exists? Nostalgia? Homesickness? That’s way too weak. But the Welsh have a word for it: “Hiraeth.” It’s pronounced “here-eyeth” (roll the “r”)

Hiraeth is something that “comes on us.” A deep longing for what no longer exists. This thing that comes on us is a human universal and is very powerful. There was a time and a place where things were better; a well-watered garden where we romped, free and innocent. I suspect it is at the root of many nationalist movements, many attempts to reform society and many stories old people tell.

It is not a bad thing, but even a good thing without morality can be bad. Perhaps we identify our loss with a certain group of Others. Kill them all and we will regain what we long for.

Hiraeth came on me and so I wrote the Magic Barn. The barn loomed on the hill of the farm we bought when I was three. It was a century old and it invited me inside to learn it’s secrets. It had many secrets. Built during the Civil War, housing a bunch of bootleggers during Prohibition, and entertaining multiple generations of children like myself. The barn is gone now-but how can it be gone? I remember every nook and cranny, I remember the old dusty guns I found under some loose floorboards, I remember the cheeky rats who never rushed off when confronted with humans, for they seemed to regard themselves as the rightful lords of the Magic Barn. I remember the sweet smell of hay and the sunshine and fresh air smell of cows fresh from the pasture.

Since humans universally have stories of a time and place when things were better, I expect there really was such a time and place. It provides us with an ideal to aim for and the emotional motivation to keep aiming. I would just point out that if the ideal requires us to kill Others, we have taken the wrong path. The Others also feel Hiraeth, they also long for a better time. The Others are also humans, just like us.

It is not a literal time and place for which we long; it is a better world-and that we can attain.

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