Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Inner Landscape of Beauty

An interview with the late Irish poet and philosopher, John O'Donohue, by Krista Tippett on the program "On Being":
The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Transcript: http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2012/inner-landscape-of-beauty/transcript.shtml

The blog entry:  http://blog.onbeing.org/tagged/Inner-Landscape-of-Beauty

Some quotes:

But for me, philosophically, stress is a perverted relationship to time. So that rather than being a subject of your own time, you have become its target and victim, and time has become routine. So at the end of the day, you probably haven't had a true moment for yourself. And you know, to relax in and to just be.

And one day I read in him and he [Meister Eckhart, 14th-century German mystic] said, "There is a place in the soul ...  that neither time, nor space, nor no created thing can touch." ... that your identity is not equivalent to your biography. And that there is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.

[a reading from his book Anam Ċara.] In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam ċara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and ċara is the word for friend. … In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam Ċara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam ċara you could share your innermost self, your mind, and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. … In everyone's life there is great need for an anam ċara, a soul friend, in this love you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. Where you are understood, you are at home.

... if you realize how vital to your whole spirit — and being and character and mind and health — friendship actually is, you will take time for it, you know? And the trouble is though for so many of us is that we have to be in trouble before we remember what's essential. And sometimes it's one of the lonelinesses of humans is that you hold on desperately to things that make you miserable and that sometimes you only realize what you have when you're almost about to lose it.
So, I think that it would be great to step back a little from one's life and see around one who are those that hold me dear, that truly see me, and those that I need, and to be able to go to them in a different way. Because the amazing thing about humans is we have immense capacity to reawaken in each other the profound ability to be with each other and to be intimate.

I think that beauty is not a luxury, but I think that it ennobles the heart and reminds us of the infinity that is within us. I always loved what Mandela said when he came out, and I was actually in his cell in Robben Island, one time I was in South Africa. Even after 27 years in confinement for something he never — for wrong you never committed, he turned himself into a huge priest and come out with this sentence where he said, "You know that what we are afraid of is not so much our limitations but the infinite within us."

I feel that there are two ways that you must always keep together in approaching the God thing. One is, and this is what I like about the Christian tradition — and this is where I diverge a little from the Buddhist tradition even though I love Buddhism as a methodology to clean up the mind and get you into purity of presence. What I love is that at the heart of Christianity, you have this idea of intimacy, which is true belonging, being seen, the ultimate home of individuation, the ultimate source of it and the homecoming.
That's what I call spirituality, the art of homecoming. So it's St. Augustine's phrase, like, "Deus intimior intimo meo" — "God is more intimate to me than I am to myself." Then you go to Meister Eckhart, and you get the other side of it, which you must always keep together with it, where in Middle High German, he says, "Gott wirt und Gott entwirt" — that means, "God becomes and God unbecomes," or translated it means that God is only our name for it, and the closer we get to it the more it ceases to be God. So then you are on a real safari with the wildness and danger and otherness of God.
And I think when you begin to get a sense of the depth that is there then your whole heart wakens up. You know, I mean, I love Irenaeus' thing from the second century, which said, the Glory of the human being — "The glory of God is the human being fully alive." And I think in our culture that one of the things that we are missing is that these thresholds where we can encounter this, and where we move into new change in our lives, there are no rituals to help us to recognize them or to cross them worthily.

... the threshold, in a way, is a place where you move into more critical and challenging and worthy fullness. And I think there are huge thresholds in every life. ...  if you are in the middle of your life in a busy evening, 50 things to do and you get a phone call that somebody you love is suddenly dying. Takes 10 seconds to communicate that information, but when you put the phone down, you are already standing in a different world. Because suddenly everything that seems so important before is all gone and now you are thinking of this. So the given world that we think is there and the solid ground we are on is so tentative. And I think a threshold is a line which separates two territories of spirit, and I think that very often how we cross is the key thing.
... beauty isn't all about just nice, loveliness like. Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming. And I think when we cross a new threshold that if we cross worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere.

... we spend over one-third of our lives actually in the workplace, and one of the loneliest things you can find is somebody who is in the wrong kind of work, who shouldn't be doing what they are doing but should be doing something else and haven't the courage to get up and leave it and make a new possibility for themselves. But it's lovely when you find someone at work who's doing exactly what they dreamed they should be doing and whose work is an expression of their inner gift. And in witnessing to that gift and in bringing it out they actually provide an incredible service to us all. And I think you see that the gifts that are given to us as individuals are not for us alone, or for our own self-improvement, but they are actually for the community and to be offered. And I think this is where leadership comes in at work.


... in the presence of beauty, it's not a neutral thing, but it's actually calling you, you know? And I feel that one could write a wonderful psychology just based on the notion of being called, you know, being called to be yourself and called to transfigure what has hardened or got wounded with in you. And it's also, of course, the heart of creativity this calling forth all the time, ...

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