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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

Y and Z

Yearning and Zeal



Yearning is a feeling of intense longing or wishing for something that you may not be able to have or may have difficulty in attaining. Yearning is about want and desire but it is a more tender word. It is something held deep within the heart and motivates considered action. Desiring, craving, hankering, hungering and lust are all synonyms but none encapsulates the gentle and at times melancholic, heart-held hope embodied in yearning. We yearn for peace and comfort, kindness, love, joy, freedom connection. These human conditions are not things we lust after or crave. We seek them with gentle hope and patience. I see yearning as seeking something on a far shore, possibly not in sight, maybe unable to be articulated, but yet there, cradled in our hearts.


When I was a child I think I had a heart full of yearning. I’m not even sure I know what the strange little human I was actually wanted. In retrospect I think much of my ‘silence’ and introspection was about the process of seeking something out of reach. Through no-one’s fault we were not encouraged to dream big, I may have been limited by a misplaced sense that a small life was one that kept you safe. But a life without a sense of your own uniqueness and capacity confines one to a life where yearning may be replaced by hopelessness.


I could not have imagined the life I lead now when I was a child. But it was at the heart of what I yearned for. It was not riches, fame and the trappings of success. It was to live courageously. To ultimately live in my own skin and accept not just my limitations but my strengths. I yearned for a place in the world where I could teach and learn, write and create, feel outrage at the worst of life and deep gratitude for the wonders of it. And it is the life I’m leading and yet yearning continues. Not for things but for places, for ideas, wondrousness and connection.


Yearning for the seemingly impossible is the path to human progress.

                                                                                    Bryantt H. McGill





And then there is zeal. Is it a good thing? Well that depends. Zeal is about enthusiasm and the giving of oneself for the sake of particular outcomes. It requires fortitude and commitment. It is all about passion and determination which are positive qualities. But it can also be about fanaticism and fervour which can often derail the best of intentions.

I would say someone I know is quite zealous in their support of the Canberra Raiders. This person may also demonstrate zeal when discussing cars. I’m sure I’ve protected their anonymity and no-one will be able to identify said person. And if you are not in the direct firing line of these passionate discussions then one could conclude that this is positive zeal. Endearing in fact. A positive and delightful quality. Zeal is good. It drives interest and gets things done.


But of late we have seen the unpleasant side of zeal. Adherence to ideas with unparalleled fervour is not endearing. It leads to a failure to question our allegiance to those ideas. Zeal can blind one to the alternatives, the merits and dangers of what we choose to believe. I could mention a dozen examples and despite upsetting some folks I’ll mention a few: vaccines, referendums, lock-downs, conspiracies, Trump for president, war and AI.


I’m not denouncing enthusiasm for all or any of the above ideas no matter which side you support. (Except the Trump one!) I’m all for having an opinion, and for your right to express it but I have deep concerns when zeal gets in the way of information, research, learning, considered thought, respect, safety and individual action. After all saying a thing loudly doesn’t make it right. (Except for the ongoing hope for a Raiders’ Premiership…we need all the zeal we can get.)


Zeal without knowledge is like fire without light.

                                                Thomas Fuller

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