This week’s Speaking of Faith is an interview with Irish poet John O’Donohue. In his last book, Anam Cara, he writes:
“It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. A world lives within you. No one else can bring you news of this inner world. Through the opening of the mouth, we bring out sounds from the mountain beneath the soul. These sounds are words. The world is full of words. There are so many talking all the time, loudly, quietly, in rooms, on streets, on television, on radio, in the paper, in books. The noise of words keeps what we call the world there for us. We take each other’s sounds and make patterns, predictions, benedictions, and blasphemies. Each day, our tribe of language holds what we call the world together. Yet the uttering of the word reveals how each of us relentlessly creates. Everyone is an artist. Each person brings sound out of silence and coaxes the invisible to become visible.”
Blame it on my surroundings this Sunday, but while on a long hike first thing this morning, O’Donohue’s voice and story struck such a cord, I was suddenly in tears admiring the gorgeous forest. The podcast discusses how God is found in beauty and how it is human nature to seek out things we find beautiful to better understand them.
“The heart is where the nature, feeling and intimacy of a life dwell, and without heart the world grows suddenly cold. In its desire for beauty, it reaches toward the beyond. This poignant desire for beauty suggests that beauty is the homeland of the heart…. When God created [the heart], it was fashioned for an eternal kinship with beauty; God knew that the human heart would always be wedded to him in desire; for the other name of God is beauty. The heart is the tabernacle of divine beauty. St John of the cross puts this poetically:
I did not have to ask my heart what it wanted
Because of all the desires I have ever known,
Just one did I cling to
For it was the essence of all desire:
To know beauty.”
With these words ringing in my ears, I found beauty and God everywhere I looked. The colors, lines, textures and perfection of these creations — they took my breath. We may not all believe in God, but I think it is safe to say we all have a belief in beauty. There are things we consider beautiful, which he is quick to say doesn’t mean glamour or anything materialistic. Instead, when the host asked what was beautiful to him, he listed off friends and experiences of feeling loved and accepted.
He also lists this piece of music as one that made him tingle with exuberance. I couldn’t agree more. I was smiling from ear to ear feeling so thankful to be able to enjoy these notes and their order as I hiked along. Oh, to be so talented!
To me beauty is my father’s relaxed laugh when he is with his children, my mom dancing without shame to Prince, my brother’s love for his dog, a deep breath of musky dense forest air, seeing the Milky Way on a clear night in Mozambique, women in Colorado without makeup and their sun-kissed hair pulled back in long, carefree braids with mud stuck to the backs of their legs after a long ride/hike/day in nature, crab and sourdough bread eaten with your fingers on the pier in San Francisco, purple hydrangeas growing like weeds in Central America, a pair of jeans that fit magically and finding a handwritten note of love on an otherwise blue day.
God is in each of these.
What’s your view of beauty?