What Are We Looking For?

Despite a proliferation of electronic devices with access to an impressive array of music, when I’m driving I like to listen to the radio.  Most often it’s CBC Radio One (88.1 FM in the Lower Mainland) or Espace Musique (90.9 FM).  Lately, there have been debates with my most frequent passenger — he often wants me to switch to a different radio station — as he continues his exploration and discovery of a range of musical genres.

The other day he asked me which CDs (compact discs – remember those?) we had in the car.  I handed over the small collection I had and his attention was riveted by a U2 album, a compilation of the band’s best hits from 1980-1990.  Into the player it went.  I have to admit it was a pleasure to rediscover these songs and I’d be hard-pressed to say which one’s my favourite, since each great song was followed by another and another. 

However, as we listened, I was transported by one song in particular.  While I remained focused on the road, I found myself wandering off into reflection and thought.


Well, the song that struck a chord with me was I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.  Sure it’s a great song and one I’ve always enjoyed, but the mood it captured for me on that particular day was more than simply the result of that special alchemy of lyrics, beat, musicianship, and vocals.. 

A roadway leading through a field on a clear blue day

Having just returned from an extended absence in Europe, I was finding it a challenge to rediscover the rhythm of my everyday life in Vancouver, to find my ground again.  My unease was exacerbated by the pressure of a looming deadline accompanied by the lull in my professional obligations which will linger until the engines of education rev up again in September.

Aside from reflecting on my personal situation, listening to the song  made me wonder what it is we’re all looking for.  Our life tempo in North America seems to be based on a search, on a yearning, and I’m not sure any of us is really clear on what or why or how.  

Is it happiness?  If so, how does one define happiness?  In our celebrity-obsessed, consumer-based, market-driven, indulgent, hedonistic culture do we know what happiness means?  And is happiness all it’s cracked up to be? Have a listen to this episode of the CBC show Ideas and see if it doesn’t challenge your notion of happiness and what the consequences of our fixation on the concept may be.  http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2012/02/14/say-no-to-happiness-2/

I think there’s a vital difference between our search for meaning and purpose and our assumption that the result of that quest is happiness.  Maybe that’s not what puzzles me or puts me on edge when I read the news or absorb what’s going on in our culture.  Maybe it’s that we seem reluctant to look for the answers on a profound level.  Or maybe it’s that we seem to be satisfied by the packaged answers dangled in front of us like carrots from those who claim to know.  Or maybe it’s that we seem to be satisfied with answers which rest on the surface of being, on appearances:  what we own, what we look like, who we please.

And as I’ve discovered in my studies in Graduate Liberal Studies at Simon Fraser University, an idea which I keep circling back to, it seems like the fundamental challenge we face in our human existence is our search for certainty in a random and arbitrary world.  

Until we can find a way to accept and live with uncertainty, and to do so without fear and with love, whatever we may be looking for, I think, will continue to elude our grasp. 


  1. Rola Priatel on August 19, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    It certainly is a North American thing to always be looking for the next best thing and to ask what we are looking for ! It is a North American thing I say because we have more time and more money than everyone else in the world! We are always looking for the newest diet trend , the newest fashion mode or the newest restaurant to eat in because because we can! People elsewhere just live and are happy to have electricity sometimes, jobs sometimes, water from a faucet sometimes.. And those little things is what they are looking for! I am not even talking about the unfortunate and the poor, I am talking about the average human , not in North America! Happiness , don’t get me started on that topic!!!!

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