Sunday, October 2, 2011

Recognizing your own presence as blessing

"There is a quiet light that shines in every heart," the late John O'Donohue wrote at the beginning of his lovely book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. This light, while it always burns, "draws no attention to its itself." As O'Donohue described it, this light is what "illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life."

If this light did not burn within us, O'Donohue insisted, "our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing." As it is, "Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is wedded to the energy and excitement of life."

I was struck by this passage after reading (and posting on) what Giussani wrote in The Religious Sense in response to Theodor Adorno's insistence that not only is the hope that is part and parcel of our common humanity false, but that it is our recognition of its falsity that allows us to live. Wisely, Giussani does not make fun of this position because it is one sincerely held by many people both implicitly and explicitly. It is the basis on which a way of living is built that denies transcendence even while recognizing and cherishing our innate, existential desire for complete fulfillment. It seems to me that O'Donohue does a beautiful job of mediating the space between the two positions. He does not do this by showing how to get from the one to the other, which is the kind of thing we concern ourselves about too much, but showing us our hearts.


As I was driving up the road to my house from our annual diocesan deacon's retreat, wonderfully led by Owen Cummings (the last conference of which he entitled The Gift of John O'Donohue, about whom poet David Whyte said, "John was a love-letter to humanity"), I was driving up the hill looking at the mountains with leaves starting to catch fire against the blue sky featuring high, white clouds and one of the quotes from O'Donohue Owen put in his retreat notes happened to me- "A day in the mountains or by the ocean helps your body unclench" and to "recover your deeper rhythm." Even seeing this, sometihng inside me moved, loosened.

It also dawned on me at the very end of the retreat that the best mentors trust the ones they mentor and understand that mentoring means helping someone to stand his/her own two feet confident that s/he is both gifted and immensely loved.

1 comment:

  1. Scott,

    This post is absolutely perfect! It completely spoke to my heart, and made my think of all my "kids" (the students that I mentor). Over the years, I've been so blessed not only to have wonderful kids whom I trust, but also to have had the gift of watching them grow and blossom into beautiful graduates and adults!

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