The world would be desolate

I was struck by these thoughts on perception and the enlargement of the spirit, which I came across in an article in the journal Arts: The Arts in Religious and Theological Studies (vol. 28, no. 1).

The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us.

Thus says Wallace Stevens in his article ‘Relations between Poetry and Painting’. He goes on to challenge us to embrace

the extension of the mind beyond the range of the mind, the projection of reality beyond reality, … the determination not to be confined, the recapture of excitement and intensity of interest, the enlargement of the spirit at every time, in every way.

Paul Klee, in ‘Creative Credo’, reminds us that:

art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.

And Robert Frost, ‘Education by Poetry: A Meditative Monologue’, insists that,

unless you have had your proper poetical education in the metaphor, you are not safe anywhere. Because you are not at ease with figurative values.


Hapax legomena

Cory Dugan, hapax: gospel #1 (matthew)

Cory Dugan, hapax: gospel #1 (matthew)

I love this artwork by Cory Dugan, which is part of a series of works, all of which explore the notion of hapax legomena, words that only feature once in a certain oeuvre. Dugan’s sources include John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, the works of William Shakespeare, the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament.

For examples of the other Synoptic Gospels, see the article ‘Hapax Legomena: A Series by Cory Dugan’ in the journal Arts.

Beyond every safe frontier

And some final thoughts on longing from John O’Donohue’s essay on fire.

This is the longing in all spirituality: to come in out of the winter of alienation, self-division and exile and into the hearth of warmth and at-one-ment.

… the fire of longing is what confers life. This longing brings one beyond every safe frontier. It is in the giving of oneself to the fire that ultimate transfiguration and renewal comes.

John O’Donohue, ‘Fire: At Home at the Hearth of Spirit’, in: The Four Elements: Reflections on Nature


Where rest becomes luminous and play a prayer of gratitude



Even as the subway car hurtles
into the tunnel and calendars heave
under growing weight of entries,
even under the familiar lament
for more hours to do

a bell rings somewhere
and a man lays down
his hammer, as if to say
the world can build without me,
a woman sets down
her pen as if to say,
the world will carry on
without my words.

The project left undone,
dust on the shelves,
dishes crusted with morning
egg, the vase of drooping
flowers, and so much work
still to complete,

I journey across the long field
where trees cling to the edges
free to not do anything but
stand their ground,
where buttercups
and bluebells sway
and in this taste of paradise
where rest becomes luminous
and play a prayer of gratitude,
even the stones sing
of a different time,
where burden is lifted
and eternity endures.

Christine Valters Paintner, published in: Arts vol. 29, no. 1

No intoxication of thoughts

Nothing Else Matters

From you
I don’t want anything new
no more gifts
nor the scent of landscapes
rising to fill us,
no bouquets of insight
left by my head
in the tenderness of morning

no intoxication
of thoughts that open horizons
where rooms are low,
nor the sever of spring
under the grid of old words
that has set on our skin,
nor my favourite blue,
the cobalt
colour of silence.

All I want
is your two hands
pulsing in mine,
the two of us
back in a circle
round our love.

From: John O’Donohue, Echoes of Memory

God is the greatest question


John O'Donohue

John O’Donohue

God is the most passionate presence in the universe. … there is not a stitch of utilitarianism or functionalism in God. … God surges and flows and is wild. 

This aspect of God’s vitality has been lost for so long with­in the tradition. … Aristotle’s idea of God as unmoved mover seemed to protect the transcendence of God by putting him safely beyond all change.

The danger of such a concept is that it deadens the deity. God is not a dead answer. God is the greatest question in the universe, a question that has kept itself free of banal answers. This is where all fundamentalists and sects get lost. They convert the passion, wildness and danger of God as a question into a clichéd answer ….

John O’Donohue, ‘Fire: At Home at the Hearth of Spirit’, in: The Four Elements: Reflections on Nature