This Thing Called Courage

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Spiritually Speaking: The Inner Landscape of Beauty

SINCE IT'S SUNDAY, it's not inappropriate to speak of things spiritual. While the media's obsession with the religious right-- and the religious right itself-- has left so many people in this country a bad taste in our collective mouth, it is true nonetheless that all of us have a spiritual component-- just as we have a leg or two. Forget you have a leg (in my case) and you'll never walk, and see the world-- or see the hummingbird nest I saw last summer down at the edge of Spot Pond. Ignore your soul and...well...

Perhaps in many of us, it is something we can define as simply a longing for we know not what. What if that longing is a song our soul is hearing-- a love song fromt he Beloved, calling us home?

There are vast treasures to be gleaned here. But, because so many of us have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, we deny ourselves the juicy fruit (as it were) of Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, Rumi, Mirabai, Julian of Norwich, etc etc. The rancid Kool-Aide of the religious right, their seeming lust for war, money, and condemnation of others-- keeps us from knowing that there are some vintage beverages out there-- many Cliquot Verves 1928, in fact...

Well, today I'd like to begin to share some of these exquisite vintages, starting with my own Irish tradition, as exemplified by the late great John O'Donohue.

After his graduation from college, Joseph Cambell traveled Europe and the Middle East, visiting monasteries, cathedrals, mosques, and temples, asking himself-- Why so many religions if there is only truth? Ultimately his interest in this became a lifelong one, and he studied and lived among virtually all the religious traditions of the world. There is not, nor has there ever been, a people who have not, like Walt Whitman's spider shooting out its strand of silk and hoping to land upon something, sought to understand and come to encounter the Great Mystery of the Invisible World, as some call it. My own feeling is that each tradition has much to teach us.

On January 2 of this year, John O'Donohue, beloved Irish poet and spiritual writer best known for his book Anam Cara ("Soul Friend," in Irish) passed away. Here is his 'Beannacht' ('Blessing.)


On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble,

may the clay dance to balance you.

And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window, and the ghost of loss gets in to you,

may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green, and azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you,

may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.

There is a great radio show on one of the public radio stations here in Boston, from noon to one pm on Sundays, called Speaking of Faith. It's really wonderful. For weeks I have been waiting for them to air the very last interview John O'Donohue gave. It's really wonderful, and invite all of you to take some time to listen to John: go to the link (you may have to cut and paste) and then click on 'listen now;' or click on 'complete unedited interview' for a two-hour version rather than a one.

You can also click on the slideshow of John's native land of Connemara by clicking on 'Beannacht.'
And you can also hear the Celtic music featured on the interview by clicking on 'SOF Playlist' under the heading 'Hear the Music.'


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I presume the Spot Pond referred to is in in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. The Fells is a special place. The group that is fighting to preserve it needs all the support it can muster. A development is now being opposed. If that battle is lost there will be a subsequent negative impact on Spot Pond by the MWRA. Visit the Friends at

11:50 AM  
Blogger BiscuitsBoy said...

Thanks for the comment. The Fells is indeed a special place-- I refer to it frequently in these pages, most times by the name 'Happy Land,' which is what I began calling it many years ago when I first dsicovered it. I now live 400 yards from The Fells, and am proud to be a supporter of the Friends of the Fells, who have worked so hard to protect this very special place.

10:41 PM  

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