Thought for the Day: Thursday, April 2
In strange times people draw their inspiration from strange places. You may recently have come across, as I did, a poem by John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us – a Book of Blessings. In this collection the former Catholic priest, philosopher and poet, who died over a decade ago, looked at life’s threshold moments —getting married, having children, starting a new job—and tried to offer some guidelines to help people make the transition from a known, familiar world into new, unmapped territory.
Perhaps that’s why this poem has re-surfaced, since we are all now in uncharted waters, doing our best not to go under.
O’Donohue wrote a lot about two things in particular: silence and beauty. Growing up in a remote spot on the west of Ireland he spent a lot of his life in solitude and meditation. One of his great influences was the medieval German mystic, known as Meister Eckhart, who once wrote that he believed nothing resembles God-like silence.
O’Donohue took this idea and suggested that the frenetic character of much of our life in the West might be explained by the absence of silence and that a re-discovery of it might help us in our daily relationships: “When you acknowledge the integrity of your solitude and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder.”
In 2005 he penned a study on Beauty called ‘The Invisible Embrace,’ in which he drew on many strands of the classical, medieval, and Celtic traditions to argue that human beings might be alive for reasons other than productivity or consumption. Beauty, he felt, was much neglected.
It certainly seems to me that we have time on our hands at the moment to reflect on whether or not we think he might have had a point. “When we approach (the world) with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.”
As our confinement forces us to slow down and become familiar with narrower surroundings, we may wish to take advantage of a rare chance to appreciate silence and beauty to a greater degree than we have done for a while. John O’Donohue’s poem suggests that they are two of the positive ways of surviving hard times such as these, in the knowledge that the future always retains hope for us all.
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.