Bringing Ancient Celtic Wisdom to Modern Confusions and Longings

by Krista Tippet, host

"It’s strange to be here," John O’Donohue wrote, referring to life. "The mystery never leaves you." And creating "The Inner Landscape of Beauty" was a lovely, if strange and mysterious, experience.

O’Donohue was an Irish poet and philosopher beloved for his books, including Anam Ċara — Gaelic for “soul friend” — and for his insistence on beauty as a human calling and a defining aspect of God. I sat down with him in the fall of 2007 for a wide-ranging, two-hour conversation. Then just a few months later, before it could go to air, he died in his sleep, suddenly, at the age of 52. And so this hour of conversation has become a remembrance of him.

He would surely see this as a serendipitous continuation of his life’s work — of bringing ancient Celtic wisdom to modern confusions and longings.

We ended the show with his reading of “Beannacht,” a poem of blessing he wrote for his mother upon the death of his father. A number of listeners who read and loved John O’Donohue’s work wrote to us after we posted this and other poems he read to me during our interview:

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

And we’ve posted a pair of informative blog entries about our research into the beautiful, essential music for this show — including the style of Gaelic singing called sean-nos and the helpful contributions of an Irish listener from Belfast.

"Music," John O’Donohue said to me, "is what language would love to be if it could."

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