Happy Thanksgiving
Everyday magic

On beauty and balance

Woodland Gate

I'd like to end the week with a final passage from Beauty by John O'Donohue (1956-2008), a philosphical/spiritual/poetic examination of the role of beauty in all of our lives:

"Our times are driven by the inestimable energies of the mechanical mind," O'Dononhue noted, "its achievements derive from its singular focus, linear direction and force. When it dominates, the habit of gentleness dies out. We become blind: nature is rifled, politics eschews vision and becomes the obsessive servant of economics, and religion opts for mathematics of system and forgets its mystical flame. Instead of true leadership which would be the servant of vision and imagination, we have systems of puppetry which are carefully constructed and manipulated from elsewhere. We never know who we are dealing with; hidden agendas operate to deepen our insecurity and persuade us to be hopeless. Our present dilemma is telescoped by in this wonderful phrase from Irish writer and visionary politician Michael D. Higgins: 'This acceptance of inevitability in our lives is consistent of course with the suggestion that there is but one vision of the economy, an end of history, the death of ethics, and an appropriate individualism that eschews solidarity and any transcendent public values.'

"Yet constant struggle leaves us tired and empty. Our struggle for reform needs to be balanced with a capacity for celebration.

Woodland Color

"When we lose sight of beauty our struggle becomes tired and functional. When we expect and engage the Beautiful, a new fluency is set free within us and between us. The heart becomes rekindled and our hopes brighten with unexpected courage. It is courage that restores hope to the heart. In our day-to-day lives, we often show courage without realizing it; it is only when we are afraid that courage becomes a question. Courage can tap into the heart of fear, taking that frightened energy and turning it towards initiative, creativity, action and hope. When courage comes alive, imprisoning walls become frontiers of new possibility, difficulty becomes invitation and the heart comes into a new rhythm of trust and sureness."


Go here for O'Donohue's thoughtful discussion of beauty, Celtic mystery and the formative power of landscape on Krista Tippett's radio show. It was one of his last interviews, and well worth a listen...particularly right now. We miss you, John.

Woodland CompanionThe passage above is from Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (HarperCollins, 2004). The poem is from To Bless the Space Between Us (Doubleday, 2008). All rights reserved by the author's estate.