Every so often I pull a published collection of speeches by Peter Biggs off one of my bookshelves. Biggs was the head of Creative New Zealand and the collection, published in 2004 and titled Islands of Excellence. Most recently, it was pulled from the shelf this morning.
Back in 2001 Irish Priest / poet / philosopher John O’Donohue (most recently featured on this blog, here) was in New Zealand and Peter Biggs was charged with introducing him to an audience in my favourite NZ book shop – Unity Books in Wellington.
I quote from Biggs’ speech, which he begins by reading “Water-Burn” (a Scottish term for the phosphorescence you see on the waves of the sea), a poem by Irish poet Michael Longley that he uses “to introduce another Irishman” (O’Donohue).
“… ‘ We should have been galloping on horses, their hoof prints
Splashes of light, divots kicked out of the darkness,
Or hauling up lobster pots in a wake of sparks. Where
Were the otters and the seals? Were the dolphins on fire?
Yes, we should have been doing more with our lives’ …”
Biggs continues, “…In this age of economic efficiency, political expediency, global sameness, civic cynicism and self-aggrandisement, where there seems to be no urgent demand for personal courage, sound nerves or stark beauty, the constant cry I hear from people is the question: Where now is the adventure?
Well, the adventure is as old as humankind. It is the living of a fully human and unique life. And within that life, the real and most urgent adventure – which is the treasure in John’s writing – is the journey inwards. Not only is the journey inwards the greatest of all adventures, it is the greatest of mysteries too.
In making this journey, we enter the deep, magic and mysterious landscape of the human heart… The most precious people among us are those who guide and inspire us to make this journey inwards. That is why I am privileged to introduce you to poet, philosopher and writer John O’Donohue…”
This is truth and wisdom we need to be reminded of. O’Donohue was/is, through his legacy of books and audio recordings, a wise companion. One who long ago joined the company of wise and truthful companions, fellow wayfarers of the uncharted way of the heart and soul, who journey with me.