“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
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.”