John O’Donohue on beauty as a human calling

“Beauty isn’t all about just nice loveliness, like. Beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming. So I think beauty, in that sense, is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life”, says John O’Donohue.

This interview is an exploration into the mystery of beauty, how that connects to who we are and why we need beauty in all our lives.

As the introduction says “no conversation we’ve ever done has been more beloved than this one. The Irish poet, theologian, and philosopher insisted on beauty as a human calling. He had a very Celtic, lifelong fascination with the inner landscape of our lives and with what he called “the invisible world” that is constantly intertwining what we can know and see. This was one of the last interviews he gave before his unexpected death in 2008. But John O’Donohue’s voice and writings continue to bring ancient mystical wisdom to modern confusions and longings”.

Krista Tippett. On Being Interview with John O’Donohue

O’Donohue goes onto say, “it’s the question of beauty, I mean you’re asking, essentially — as we are speaking, that there are individuals holding out on frontlines, holding the humane tissue alive in areas of ultimate barbarity, where things are visible that the human eye should never see. And they’re able to sustain it, because there is, in them, some kind of sense of beauty that knows the horizon that we are really called to in some way. I love Pascal’s phrase, that you should always keep something beautiful in your mind. And I have often — like in times when it’s been really difficult for me, if you can keep some kind of little contour that you can glimpse sideways at, now and again, you can endure great bleakness”.

The interview brings to me to think of two words, ‘integral‘ and ‘restorative‘. Beauty is foundational to all life. Author, Fiona Reynolds a lifelong campaigner for our natural environment says, “The human spirit needs beauty and will strive to get more of it given half a chance”. And Nobel prize winning scientist Frank Wilczek who writes, “once you have tasted beauty at the heart of the universe you hunger for more”.

The question is then were we to see the world as an individual, as a maker and leader, through the lens of beauty – what would that means to us? Beauty is resilient, its – ‘life affirming’. It gives back to create more life. To create more life that is worthwhile, we need a world populated by Beautiful Businesses. Beauty is key to nature’s foundational design model, its very DNA. The laws of the universe are described as Beautiful. The design of our natural world is one of regeneration. There is a reason every human soul hungers for beauty. And as for scale; we know the earth is vast and the cosmos a little larger.

Journey further

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