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“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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6 Comments

I love all your programs, but I've gone back to this one at least three times. I'm now reading O'Donohue's book Beauty. It's inspiring me as I write a memoir about my childhood. Thank you for bringing this wonderful man into my life.

America could use some lessons in sobriety. He sure does like his stories.He's just okay with me. 

lovely man, on a more general note can someone explain the appeal of "ancient" wisdom, why is older better, is this part of the thinking that seeks origins as somehow being closer to some imagined Source material or Maker?

As Native Americans/Indigenous peoples, we use the ancient forms of musical expression like the Voice, the Drum and the Flute to recreate the simple, "primal" energy and Truth that we began our existence on this Earth with. Before there was language, civilization, societies, division of races, ALL of our ancestors were connected to the Earth and Life around us. We used simple sound to usher us into a spiritual realm or to express what our inner soul was feeling ("Soul music"). Life has become complicated and layered with different group consciousness that dominants Life in the dominant society and the world today. Many of us are realizing that what we are listening to and following is not healthy, wholesome or created from Unconditional Love. How wonderful it is to return to the essence, Truth and gratitude for our heartbeat and our breath! It is time. TonyRedhouse.net

thanks, that's what I thought a sense of getting back to some primal source, is Unconditional Love an ancient idea? seems kind of 60's free to be you and me, where there really no conditions laid down for a faithful life?

I keep going back to this blog.  I caught it live on public radio and as i worked in my studio, i found tears flowing at such an immersion into beauty and grace and word and sound.  A very sacred beautiful moment.  thank you so much.

apples