Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Inner Landscape of Beauty

"Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, 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."
~ Irish poet and philosopher John O'Donohue

One of the things I like to do at work when occupied, as I was today, in tediously cutting and pasting 37 pages of Spanish text, charts and legalese into an English version of my layouts is to tune in to a podcast of Fresh Air or Diane Rehm or lately, Krista Tippett, which induces the impression I'm not working, I'm actually sitting in a living room after a dinner party listening to the conversation of stimulating guests while knitting or playing Scrabble. And the virtue of the podcast is that when you find your mind has wandered off for a moment, to the aluminum foil you need to pickup on the way home or what word you can make with e, e, l, m, i, z, and r or the tab settings in your document, you can just slide the little timer thingy back and replay whatever you just missed. Or you can repeat and repeat and repeat something that, you realize suddenly, has left your mouth ajar. Such as this from The Inner Landscape of Beauty:

"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."
From his book Anam Cara (on its way from Amazon as I type.)

It's even better heard in an Irish accent. Or this:

"And the question is when is the last time that you had a great conversation, a conversation which wasn't just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture. But when had you last a great conversation, in which you over heard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew. That you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost and a sense of an event of a conversation that brought the two of you on to a different plane. And then fourthly, a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterwards, you know? And I've — I've had some of them recently, and it's just absolutely amazing, like, as we would say at home, they are food and drink for the soul, you know?"

Sounds like the Scrabble game might have been pre-empted there.

This was from an interview Krista Tippett conducted with John O'Donohue who died in his sleep on January 3rd, 2008, at the age of 52. This was one of the last interviews he gave. His final work, which was published posthumously, is called, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings.

Though I'm late to the party I hope somehow Mr. O'Donohue knows he has a new fan. What space between us?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Birds on Wires

Some years ago I was driving down Westheimer in Houston and while idling at a red light noticed birds perched on wires directly over Cafe Brasil reminded me of the bars and notes on a musical score. I grabbed the camera from my bag, stuck my arm out the window and aimed overhead as the light changed. When I was invited to guest design a cover for the Houston Symphony some months later I knew what to do with my photo. As is stated in the text accompanying the video below I didn't imagine I was the only one this image had ever occurred to. Although my grandparents were professional musicians, to my everlasting regret, the only instrument I ever learned to play was the radio so I had no idea if the "notes" really made music. Now someone else has used a shot of birds on wires and derived a meldody from the actual positions of the birds. Click below and you can hear what you see.

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.