I realize that Mondays are difficult for many of us. If you need comfort, I can't recommend yesterday's NPR On Being program highly enough. Krista Tippett interviewed the late poet and philosopher John O'Donohue. I heard the interview when it first aired years ago, and the rebroadcast reminded me of what a wonderful conversation it was. They talked about a wide range of topics, like the role of beauty and how creative practices and the arts nourish us and our need to be known for who we really are and language and landscape.
Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:
"That's why I find the aesthetic things like poetry, fiction, good film, theater, drama, dance, and music actually awaken that inside you, you know? And remind you that there is a huge interiority within you. Like, for instance when I came in to New York last Thursday evening and checked into the hotel, I found out that there was a Tchaikovsky concert on in Lincoln center. And I went over there and I got a ticket, like one of the last tickets, which was two rows in the front, and I'd never been so near an orchestra. And I said, 'My god, I'm too near.' Then I watched them, and all the rest of it. But I knew, why I was given the ticket then, at the end, because it was Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D, and Lorin Maazel came out to conduct it. And then this beautiful violinist, Janine Jansen, a Dutch violinist, it was her debut in New York. And she played this, it was just unbelievable. I cried. Like, after the first movement, people spontaneously stood up and went to give her a standing ovation, and she just held it. And we all went back again into our seats. And then at the end, people were just blown away, because an event, an aesthetic event had happened."
"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.' And I think that that is in everybody. And I suppose the question that's at the heart of all we've been discussing really, which is a beautiful question, is the question of God, you know?"
"When I think of the word 'beauty,' some of the faces of those that I love come into my mind. When I think of beauty I also think of beautiful landscapes that I know. Then I think of acts of such lovely kindness that have been done to me, by people that cared for me, in bleak unsheltered times or when I needed to be loved and minded. I also think of those unknown people who are the real heroes for me, who you never hear about, who hold out on lines — on frontiers of awful want and awful situations and manage somehow to go beyond the given impoverishments and offer gifts of possibility and imagination and seeing. I also think — always when I think of beauty — because it's so beautiful for me — is I think of music. I love music. I think music is just it. I mean, I think that's — I love poetry as well, of course, and I think of beauty in poetry. But I always think that music is what language would love to be if it could, you know?"
"I mean, 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. And that's why I think good, wise leadership will be attuned to the vitality of a true ethos and helping to establish it."
Through the magic of the Internet, you can hear the whole show or read the transcript here. That site will give you lots of other resources, including additional poems and a slideshow of the landscape described in the conversation.
Darkness Sticks to Everything
5 days ago