January 1, 1956 – January 4, 2008
By Pat O’Donohue
(John’s brother, on behalf of the O’Donohue family)
On this 14th anniversary of John O’Donohue’s death, we give thanks for the wonderful gift his life was and still is for us. We take solace in his beautifully crafted wisdom, ‘May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence, that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.’
John spoke so beautifully about the notion of our lives being a life-long refining of the art of approach towards our own unique, individual mystery and to the Divine. He defined the kidnapped and abandoned word ‘reverence’ as the awakening of a sense of respect for the mystery. He would say, ‘Reverence is respect before the Mystery.’
John sculpted a new language of exploration to seduce us back into the presence of the questions awakening within us; he loved to sit with a question and let it unfold within him. He believed many of humanity’s problems stemmed from the fact that we find it so difficult to sit alone in a room filled with silence. This calls for the forming of new habits to stop the flow of useless, noisy chatter constantly filling our minds which distracts and exhausts our thinking. John loved to speak with passion and originality about, ‘The creation of a beautiful mind.’ He kept such a beautifully furnished mind himself and loved to seek out old, anonymous bookstores where he unearthed a treasure of reading. In his books, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace / Divine Beauty, we see the line, ‘Beauty shuns the garish places.’ When we beautify our own gaze, we can behold the beauty in the ‘other’ and feel its kiss on our skin.
John believed in absolute presence and on entering a room, would almost draw the oxygen from that space with his impact trailing behind him like an afterthought. A neighbor of his from Connamara told me recently whenever you met John, you would walk away lighter on the earth with your troubles banished, ‘That was a pure gift.’ He went on to say, ‘It is such a shame that John had to leave us but he must have been needed somewhere else.’ This of course ties in with John’s beautiful thinking on all the possibilities our lives meet each day and how the ones that we don’t choose and close the door on do not disintegrate and disappear, rather carry on with our other selves in a different dimension!
Now it is so wonderful to see how John’s steps on this earth have not faded but echo and resonate through the healing and minding words from the legacy he has left us. ‘Yet the world is not decided by action alone. It is decided more by consciousness and spirit; they are the secret sources of all action and behavior. The spirit of a time is an incredibly subtle, yet hugely powerful force. And it is comprised of the mentality and spirit of all individuals together. Therefore, the way you look at things is not simply a private matter. Your outlook actually and concretely affects what goes on.’ (Benedictus / To Bless the Space Between Us)
As we meditate on the layered wisdom and healing within John O’Donohue’s words and vision, may we each consider how our own outlook can offer solace to others in our wounded world.
Le chuile beannacht agus buiochas,
(With every blessing and gratitude)