Tuesday, March 29, 2011



For years I have had an idea for a short story about a world where you would only approach one person in the course of your life. Naturally, one would have to subtract biological considerations from this assumption in order to draw this imaginary world. You would have to practise years of silence before the mystery of presence in the Other, then, you could begin to approach. In the course of your life, you might only approach one or two people. This idea gains in reality if you view your life carefully and distinguish between acquaintances and friends. A friend is different from an acquaintance. Friendship is a deeper and more sacred connection. Shakespeare has a beautiful phrase for this: ‘The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.’ So a friend is incredibly precious. A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you.

Ireland is a land of many ruins. Ruins are not empty. They are sacred places full of presence. A friend of mine, a priest in Connemara, was going to build a car-park outside his church. There was a ruin nearby which had been vacated for fifty or sixty years. He went to the man whose family had lived there long ago. He asked the man to give him the stones for the foundation. The man refused. The priest asked why and the man said: ‘Céard a dhéanfadh anamacha mo mhuinitire ansin?’ i. e. what would the souls of my ancestors do then? The implication was that even in this ruin long since vacated, the souls of those who had once lived there still had a particular affinity and attachment to this place. The life and passion of a person leaves an imprint on the ether of a place. Love does not remain within the heart, it flows out to build secret tabernacles in a landscape.

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