Beauty and the Divine

The mind searches for meaning and the will to satisfy its desire.  Our spirit is unquiet until it rests in the Transcendent Thee.  We know who we are by what we worship.  To whom or what do we offer our best attention and passion?  At times we find it difficult to climb out of a lowly state of being. 

In Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace by yes, the John O’Donohue of Anam Cara, one’s spirit is lifted through short yet deep reflections focussed on beauty from a myriad of angles—landscape to the resonance of the human voice. The beautiful invites us to order, coherence and unity.  Our struggle for reform needs to be balanced with our capacity for celebration and beauty brings new fluency, and offers refreshment so that we can remember our true destination. Beauty waits for the ready, expectant heart. Reverence of approach awakens depth, graciousness—gentleness and patience are rewarded with resonance.

O’Donohue reminds us of what Thomas Aquinas taught. Nature and experience are dynamic, constantly unfolding.  Beauty is the perfection of a thing. To know a thing is to awaken to its depth, complexity and presence.  Each thing secretly desires to be known.  Beauty is the integrity and completion of a thing.  Beauty shines out in claritas of form and is magnetic because it calls forth a thing’s presence.

Blindness, habit, and excess have dulled our minds.  Each moment offers a richness that invites care and graciousness.  Without proportion there is no balance; the force of imbalance makes way for destruction and greed.

Beauty is won from intense engagement with chaos, confusion, and contradiction.  Feeling and form find balance.  Beauty as harmony can be contagious like the atmosphere in the home.  Have you enjoyed this slice of O’Donohue’s  exploration?  He lands particularly well on beauty and music.

In music we are deftly seduced into a place of pure feeling and depth that can reach into the eternal.  Presence awakens to its eternal depth by involving one’s whole person who can sometimes touch the divine presence.  Music is homecoming since it finds its true level in deep silence.  It plumbs the gravity of sorrow until it finds the point of submerged light; it works through dissonance and harsh notes.

 This Irishman says that the music of a people finds the tenor of what haunts and delights them.

I so appreciate (and this is only a taste)  this series of lofty reflections that colour the ordinary with celebration.  I’m particularly swept into his sense of music when he gives it eternal value.  He cites Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde describing sublimely its dark beauty of eros. (p. 78)  I had to confirm for myself by listening,   If humans are made for longing awaiting their complete fulfilment then Wagner captures this sense in his music that builds and builds promising complete fulfilment, but not yet getting there.  One is drawn into that same mystical experience of building up longing for the Beloved and in the building creating a more and more expansive desire that lunges into eternity.

We are treated to a quote from Wagner on how he came to compose Tristan and Isolde. “Here I sank myself with complete confidence into the depths of the soul’s inner workings, and then built outwards from this, the world’s most intimate and central point, towards external forms…Here life and death and the very existence of the external world appear only as manifestations of the inner workings of the soul.”

Bantam Books, 2004

Patricia McGowan

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