The Inner Landscape of Beauty

John O’Donahue’s “Beannacht” (meaning “Blessing”) is a poem that offers me a great deal of comfort in times of trouble and uncertainty.

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 into 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.

In this interview recorded shortly before his death in 2010, O’Donahue speaks gently and profoundly on the subject of beauty, meaning and suffering.

My river has never looked so beautiful

How can we create lives which are truly worth living, given that these lives come to an end?

Abraham Maslow, author of Toward A Psychology of Being and originator of the famous “Hierarchy of Needs” diagram (see below), was one of the most influential figures in the establishment of the Humanistic Psychology movement in the middle of the last century. In 1957 Maslow suffered from a severe heart attack. His near-death experience blessed him with a profound and intense appreciation of life, which he later beautifully reflected on in a letter to a friend.

“The confrontation with death – and the reprieve from it – makes everything so precious, so sacred, so beautiful, that I feel more strongly than ever the impulse to love it, to embrace it, and to let myself be overwhelmed by it. My river has never looked so beautiful… Death, and its ever present possibility makes love, passionate love, more possible. I wonder if we could love passionately, if ecstasy would be possible at all, if we knew we’d never die.”
Abraham Maslow, quoted in Rollo May’s book Love and Will

We all start out knowing magic

We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.

Robert R. McCammon

Successful people

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But she does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. She needs people who live well in their places. She needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.

David W. Orr, Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry