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“Beauty does not linger, it only visits. Yet beauty’s visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm, it calls us to feel, think, and act beautifully in the world: to create and live a life that awakens the Beautiful.” So writes John O’Donohue (1956 -2008), Irish poet, Hegelian philosopher, and lecturer who sets my spirit a-shivering.

The lakes and mountains of Connemara, West Galway, imbued Donohue’s fluid aesthetics with rich dynamism, order, and harmony. From his stonemason father and Uncle Pete he learned the beauty of spirit and work. Widely read for decades, he culled insights of beauty from classical and contemporary poets and writers and psychologists and braided them into his personal sense of beauty.

In 2004 he published The Invisible Embrace – Beauty, essays articulating this amalgam, now his own; its ninth chapter, “The White Shadow: Beauty and Death,” seized my interest. Given the Creator’s affection for all that is, superimposing the lens of beauty over the underbelly of life reveals a different milieu: pathos. What seems weak, exhausted, broken, stunted, and breathless, is much more.

Such truth scrapes barnacles from doubt’s poison, catapults despair’s insanity, illumines the dying process with hope, and releases headwinds of change—inherent within this new direction is its own intimacy with Beauty who O’Donohue identifies with the mystery of God. Such finding evidences his compassionate listening to the terminally ill and resonates deeply within my psyche.

My study and waiting continues. Happily, I have another companion in John O’Donohue who made his crossing during sleep while vacationing in Avignon, France. So simple … just like his life was among us.


Free-fall into specter-world stuns the senses.

Impenetrable darkness obliterates the terrain.

Stench of rubbish steams the eyes.

Tasteless gloom salts the pores of life.

Dissonance clamors for direction.

Bruising of predicable routines sours the tongue.


Splintered glass crazes the heart-wound.


We enter the madness, its deafening silence enjoining participation.

We wait.

We begin to breathe.


Time passes.

Tears seep through ironclad fortresses.


More time passes.

We surrender.


New vision orients us to shades of gray around us.

Caustic demands diminish their stranglehold.

Strange sweetness awakens the heart, its wound a stitched ridge.

A moist path emerges beneath us.

We stand, our first steps, wobbly.

Behind us is what was.

Ahead, fresh adventure into the unknown, companioned by the Unseen.




Sedated by Versed, my left eye anesthetized, I waited in the operating room. In moments, Dr. Bruce Cohen, ophthalmologist with Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO, began removing the cataract that had clouded my vision for months. All the while, two rectangles of varying sizes morphed into brilliant reds, oranges, greens, golds, yellows, lavenders; then sucked into a sea of blue, only to reemerge with greater vibrancy. Later I learned that phaco emulsification (high frequency sound waves) had produced this lightshow.

Convalescence from this surgery has evoked deep thoughts: how the sightless manage in a dark world; how the vision-impaired handle impatience, reading, accidents. My light-sensitivity and blurriness lasted a few days, only to be followed by the imbalance between my healing eye and the other one. Drops administered three times daily promote healing; one of them, the anti-inflammatory Ketorolac, stings to my toes.

But on a deeper level, I liken denial and rationalization to this milky condition of the lens obstructing passage of light into the eye, an imperceptible process, sometimes taking years. In a parallel sense, these defense mechanisms distort inner vision: judgment becomes impaired; thinking, skewed; and imagination, banal. If this aberration is not addressed, dishonesty eclipses the soul into total darkness. And within this darkness lurks the Evil One and its passion to suck souls into eternal death.

Thus, the urgency of the Psychic Surgeon to evacuate all traces of filmy overlays from our souls, to expose them to the Light, exceedingly more dazzling than the lightshow I experienced in the operating room.

In time, with corrective lenses, I will see again.


photo credit: loco’s photos via photo pin cc

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