Lovers as artists – and the inner landscape of beauty

Here are some passages from Krista Tippett’s book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, passages that struck, inspired, challenged me.

Krista Tippett, Becoming WiseIn connection with the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, she mentions his belief in ‘the possibility of creating our own inner landscapes of beauty, to keep us vital in the midst of bleak and dangerous surroundings and experiences’, a need that, as many of us know only too well, may arise at any time.

Talking about the work of philosopher and L’Arche founder Jean Vanier, she quotes his vitally important vision ‘to educate people to relate, to listen, to help people to become themselves’ rather than, as is so often the case, to subject them to a preconceived agenda, whatever that may be.

And she quotes john a. powell, Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies, who notes that:

people are looking for community, right now, though we don’t have confidence in love. We have much more confidence in anger and hate. We believe anger is powerful. We believe hate is powerful. And we believe love is wimpy. And so if we’re engaged in the world, we believe it’s much better to sort of organize around anger and hate.

Lovers, by contrast, as Tippett herself points out are artists who are ‘reaching out to enemies, embracing complexity, creativity, and risk’.

Lastly, here are some words from geophysicist Xavier Le Pichon, also taken from Tippett’s book, words whose truth I have come to know in my own experience:

once you enter into this way of, I would call it companionship, walking with the suffering person who has come into your life and whom you have not rejected, your heart progressively gets educated by them. They teach you a new way of being.

We have to be educated by the other. My heart cannot be educated by myself. It can only come out of a relationship with others. And if we accept being educated by others, to let them explain to us what happens to them, and to let yourself be immersed in their world so that they can get into our world, then you begin to share something very deep.

Walls of fear

Jean Vanier’s article ‘The Fragility of L’Arche and the Friendship of God’ offers some important observations on fear, compassion and transformation. Vanier notes that:

Transformation has to do with the way the walls separating us from others and from our deepest self begin to disappear. Between all of us fragile human beings stand walls built on loneliness and the absence of God, walls built on fear – fear that becomes depression or a compulsion to prove that we are special.

However, as Vanier points out, ‘God cannot stand walls of fear and division’ and that ‘to be a Christian is to grow in compassion’.

The article can be found in Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness.

Perfect love overcomes fear

In his concluding observations to Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier’s Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness, John Swinton notes that ‘Vanier continues to draw our attention to fear as a source of violence. Perfect love overcomes fear, but fear turns us in on ourselves and opens us to the possibility of violence’.

Gentle concern

Community is made of the gentle concern that people show each other every day. It is made up of the small gestures, of services and sacrifices which say ‘I love you’ and ‘I am happy to be with you.’ It is letting the other go in front of you, not trying to prove that you are in the right in a discussion; it is taking the small burdens from the other.

Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

When someone spits on you

A meal is supposed to be a place where you can laugh, even if you get a chunk of food in your face when someone spits on you!

Thus Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities, in which people with and without intellectual disabilities experience life together as fellow human beings. The quote is from an article entitled ‘The Fragility of L’Arche and the Friendship of God’, which can be found in Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness.