Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Soul For Sale

A Soul For Sale:

Once again I sit and pen some words to give some shape to feelings.  Once again I listen to some music in the background.  This time it is Luca Bloom singing “Water Ballerina”, a fine touching love song.  I have just searched through some old documents and letters on my laptop and find two letters and several poems I wrote for a former love of my life.  It is more than two years since I last saw Kathy (not her real name as I don’t wish to identify her), and our parting was not the easiest for either of us.   I notice the intensity of feelings in those letters and poems.  It’s somewhat hard for me to re-capture the passion of the first few poems I wrote.  It’s almost as if someone else had penned those lines.  It’s as if I were reading poems from the hand of another poet.  Yet as I re-read the letters I discovered old truths and new truths – old truths about how important relationships are in all our lives.  I discovered new truths about sincerity and honesty – the letters were nothing if not honest.   I also noticed how blind I was to how lost this person was – she suffers from schizophrenia.  I hadn’t realised this until rather late in the relationship.  Love is truly blind.  I still often think of Kathy and wish her well, and wish her every blessing under the sun.  I hope she is happy and not too alone these days and nights.

Why did I entitle this piece “A soul For Sale”?  Well, I feel that all artists, be the writers, poets, musicians, painters, architects, songwriters, singers etc put their very souls into what the do.  I have often marvelled as I stood and listened to a busker on Grafton Street, and a lot of them sing their very own songs.  As Brush Shields said recently on the Joe Duffy Hour: “A song writer’s song is his/her baby” and yes they do feel rejected if someone pours scorn on their offspring.  I loved his metaphor.  My poems are each and every one of them my babies.  When we are in a close relationship our souls are very much for sale.  This is me, the real me – here I am in all my authenticity, with all my strengths and weaknesses, with all my good and bad points.  In such a relationship I feel “deep calls unto deep” if I may quote the psalmist of the Old Testament.

“There is nothing only emptiness inside”, the words of Luca Bloom in the background as I pen these words, in a song called “Forgiveness”.  Filling and emptiness are two very important metaphors in relating to others and indeed in spirituality.  St Paul says that God poured out his life for us in Jesus Christ his Son and thereby filled our emptiness.  He uses the Greek term “Kenosis” to describe this pouring out.  When a relationship ends we naturally feel empty and lost.  Something or some very important presence has departed and left us feeling “empty”.

A friend of mine told me that the best thing I could do after the break-up with Kathy was to fill the emptiness with another relationship, or at least with something that would keep me occupied.

Live performances by any great musician or singer capture what I mean by “soul for sale”.  Really good performances fill any emptiness inside.  I have been concerts by Christy Moore and Aslan and have found them really enervating and overwhelming.  Such performances are tantamount to spiritual experiences.  Perhaps they are supplanting the traditional Churches, and perhaps they are in essence the churches of today.

I will finish this post by alluding to a story that Glen Hansard of the Frames tells on one of his CDs.  He was once, he tells us, performing in Prague and happening to go out for a walk.  Crossing a bridge, he stopped to listen to a busker, who in my words was so “authentic” that he “had a soul for sale”.  Glen was so struck with the man’s performance that he took out his mobile and dialled home to record this guy’s live performance on his answering machine.  Listen to Glen’s original version on the following CD:  Breadcrumb Trail

When we are relating to others in an authentic and real and sincere and honest way we “wear our hearts on our sleeves”, we have “a soul for sale” or we put “our baby on show” as it were.  Of course, we may risk rejection.  As we grow in this world we learn when and where we can be really authentic, when it is right and proper to take the risk of rejection.  Can anything worthwhile ever be attained without risk I ask? The image I have inserted above speaks for itself - I entitle it "The Open Gate". That image reflects the "openness of soul" discussed in the above post. I took this picture a week or so ago in Malahide Castle.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Evening Walk

Evening Walk

Once again I find myself standing looking into the water by the railings not far from the Light House in Howth Harbour.  The early spring light is fading and giving way to the dark shadows of the evening.  It is almost 6 p.m. and I stand alone for what must be five minutes.  There is not one other human presence near me.  I watch Ireland’s Eye, which looks like a great supine moss-covered giant asleep, begin to cast eerie shadows on the water.  The rocks are dark grey and wet as the sea is a little choppy this evening.  They are also blotched yellow by lichens and white by seagulls’ droppings.  A few of these latter culprits screech lonely cries from a sky which is a mass of different shades of grey.  A few airplanes line up to begin their descent for Dublin airport.  The buoys shake their blinking lights to the rhythm of the waves which are incapable of drowning them.  Momentarily I look towards the village and see the evening begin to come alive in a myriad of little lights.  My hands have grown cold from the railings and are half turned to ice by the wind.  Still it is so good to be here alone with the elements – to recharge the battery.  I briefly recall young Gianni, an Italian architect from Calabria who is in Dublin learning English.  He gave me a lovely Italian phrase for this one evening at the “scambio linguistico” in the Ilac library, and I repeat it to myself the lilting rhythms of the Italian words : “Sono qui a Howth per recaricare la mia batteria”  This scene is so far from the beautiful warm coastline of Calabria.  However cold it may be, this is my sea.  This is my home and I’m proud of it.  Then a snorting sound wakes me from my reverie.  There in front below me is the culprit – a seal whose head is now bobbing on the waves not too far away from the watcher.  It appears to me that he has come here especially now to say hello, or even to bid goodbye to the lonely watcher.   His snorting makes me laugh and rejoice in the rough beauty of life.  I put my cold hands in my pockets to warm them, turn up my collar against the breeze and adjust my hat.  When this ceremony is finished I turn and head back for my car.  Who knows what other mystery will unfold itself before me later this evening. The picture I have inserted at the top centre of this post is one of Ireland's Eye, just a little distance from Howth Harbour. I took this picture in 2002.

Back from the West

Back from the West

We are formed by the landscape in which we dwell.  Our Irish character is shaped by the rocks, stones, ancient walls, fields, planes, rivers, seas, lakes, valleys and mountains on whose bosom we are reared.  Our literature, both in English and in Irish bears the marks of our landscape.  We cannot study Irish literature, philosophy or theology without being cognizant of this fact.  I remember years ago studying Máirtín Ó Díreain at college and writing an essay entitled “Mairtín Ó Díreain, An Fear Aniar” for one of our lecturers in the Irish Department in UCD.  All of Ó Díreáin’s poetry is hewn out of the rocks and stones of Inis Mór on which he was born and reared.  He never managed not to write about his beloved Árainn.  He saw his antecedents as having extracted their rights from the land by sheer struggle with the elements –  as “winning their rights from the strength of nature: ag baint ceart de neart na ndúl”.  Then I remember all those fantastic stories written by Liam Ó Flaithearta in that well-crafted and beautifully written classic collection called “Dúil” which we studied long ago at school and college.  Once, when Liam went back to his native island of Árainn he proclaimed these famous words: “A chloch mhór, aithním thú: o great rock, I recognize you!”  His stories also were all totally inspired by the mystical beauty of landscape, seascape and mouintaincape of the west of Ireland.  The same, of course, can be said of our writers in English like Paddy Kavanagh who never escaped from his “stony grey soil” of Monaghan or James Joyce whose writings are suffused in the geography of his native Dublin and in the sea that lashed its coast around the famous Martello Tower at Sandycove, the Forty Foot and, of course, the famous Sandymount Strand where many a Joycean encounter, if not epiphany, happened.  

These thoughts are occasioned by a week I spent with my Transition Year students in the West of Ireland – an area which constantly overwhelms me with its mystical if harsh landscape.  There is a deep spirituality at its heart’s core.  Read either of the following mystical contemporary philosophers, both of whom follow in that great Celtic spiritual tradition – John O’Donohue and John Moriarty.  Don’t seek understanding in their writings – rather seek to be enlightened ,entranced, enthralled and spellbound.   However, back to the occasion that inspired these few words – namely a class visit to Delphi Adventure centre in Mayo.  It is located in southwest Mayo, halfway between Louisburgh and Leenane. All around the centre are the mountains, beaches, sheltered inlets, rivers, lakes and majestic scenery of Connemara.  Added to that is the uniqueness of the fact that the centre lies on the banks of the famous Killary Harbour, the one and only fjord in Ireland.

I have inserted a photo I took of the River that runs just outside the Adventure Centre.  You can visit The Delphi Adventure site at this link: .  Apologies for my inability to insert a smaller classier link than this horrible written one.