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Doing No-Thing to Come to Ourselves

Doing No-Thing to Come to Ourselves

My dears –

Today, I offer you the second half of the poem by John O’Donohue, “gone too soon,” as we say, in 2008. The whole of the poem, which you can hear me reading below, includes some description at length what it is like to be exhausted.

But we know what it is to be exhausted, don’t we? And so I include here the parts of the poem that remind us—forcefully, even—of what cares for us when we are exhausted. What can we actually (not) do?

We know how it feels to be helpless, and, if we are lucky, to remember our own souls, to remember our “first, last, and only refuge.” O’Donohue helps us remember. O’Donohue is a master of writing about beauty, friendship, and truth – matters too often ignored these days, I think. And here, he reminds me about friendship with myself.

He reminds us, as Derek Walcott does in “Love after Love,” (a poem many of you have heard me read before and that I may read again soon in our group) that we have just forgotten ourselves. That we are not altogether lost, and that it is we ourselves who can find ourselves.

Do note, of course, “Be excessively gentle with yourself.” O’Donohue goes even further than “persistently gentle” to “excessively gentle.” The other day, I misremembered the line as, “obsessively gentle,” and it got me through a day of substantial physical pain. Excessive. Obsessive, at the very, very least, persistent.

The other piece that stands out to me is this: “Learn to linger around someone of ease / Who feels they have all the time in the world.”

Can we learn not only to draw alongside of such people, but then to become such people? We do have all the time in the world; we have all the time the world will give us, each of us, and that’s all there is. In my world, staying clear of those vexed in spirit means avoiding images, sounds, or videos of the Rapist-in-Chief, as well as just minding my own relationships.

But as the West burns and the South floods and smoke travels across the country, it is hard, friends; it is hard not to be vexed in spirit. Let us help one another become people to linger around. Let us help one another imitate stone and twilight and things that are both sturdy and soft.

And then we, like the Prodigal Children, may come home to ourselves. Home, home, home with our souls. To a place from which the ease of spirit we have allows the Spirit of love to flow through and touch everyone we touch.

So much love,


“You have travelled too fast over false ground; Now your soul has come to take you back. Take refuge in your senses, open up To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight, Taking time to open the well of color That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone Until its calmness can claim you. Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit. Learn to linger around someone of ease Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself, Having learned a new respect for your heart And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

From Benedictus: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue

PS—clear your calendars!! Thursday night, 8:30 Eastern, October 29th to PARTAY with the Mighty Dead. Look for more information soon on A Toast for the Ancestors!

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