Anam Cara

I seem to lead a charmed life… at least on occasion.

Yesterday evening, I was visiting with a neighbour who knows nothing of my writing or my blogging. She was quite excited by a book she had discovered by John O’Donohue called Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. Over tea she picked it up and turned to a passage that had particularly struck her as poignant, and began to read aloud one paragraph,

“Ascetic solitude involves silence. And silence is one of the great victims of modern culture. We live in an intense and visually aggressive age; everything is drawn outward toward the sensation of the image. A consequence of culture becoming ever more homogenized and universalist is that image has such power. With the continued netting of everything, chosen images can immediately attain universality. There is an incredibly subtle and powerful calculating industry of modern dislocation, where that which is deep and  lives in the silence within us is completely ignored. The surfaces of our minds continue to be seduced by the power of images. There is a sinister eviction taking place; peoples’ lives are being dragged outward all the time. The inner world of the soul is suffering a great eviction by the landlord forces of advertising and the external social reality. This outer exile really impoverishes us. One of the reasons so many people are suffering from stress is not that they were doing stressful things but that they allow so little time for silence. A fruitful solitude without silence and space is inconceivable.” (pp. 108 – 9)

I was initially a little reluctant to have her read to me from a book. But when she came to the lines “There is a sinister eviction taking place; peoples’ lives are being dragged outward all the time. The inner world of the soul is suffering a great eviction by the landlord forces of advertising and external social reality” so that we live, in effect, in “outer exile”…. these lines immediately grabbed my attention. O’Donohue was describing exactly what I have been calling “the foreign installation”.

How fortuitous that was! I could hardly believe she had chosen to read the very thing which was the object of my present scrutiny… the foreign installation that turns our minds into occupied territory. And if you have some doubts about that, I suggest you read Al Ries and Jack Trout’s Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

(A word of warning, Ries and Trout aren’t out so much to provide you with defences against being psychically occupied. The book is actually a ‘how-to’ manual for perception managers, mind manipulators, branders, propagandists, advertisers, “public diplomacy” and public relations agents).

In any case, I now have O’Donohue’s book (which she kindly lent to me) and will be reading it carefully.

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2 responses to “Anam Cara

  1. misterdirk says :

    Oh boy, I never would have paired Ries and Trout with John O’Donohue, but I can see how that works.

    I’m sure you’ll love reading O’Donohue. My wife and I had a fortunate encounter with him in March of 1993 in Ireland. I was on a surf trip; Ireland was little surfed in at that time, and it was an almost epic adventure. One evening we met John O’Donohue in a pub in Doolin, became enchanted by his poetry and language and formed a friendship. He invited us to travel together for a spell while he gave some lectures and poetry readings. When we finally parted he left us with a couple of chapbooks of his poetry and a cassette of one of his talks. His spoken word was really a phenomenon; there are some YouTube videos that give a taste. Some years later, when “Anam Cara” was published, we saw him again in our hometown when he was on the book tour. It was wonderful and warm, but he had more of a packaged quality by that point, and an awareness of the many eyes and ears that wanted a piece of his time. It must have been difficult for him, but the authenticity of his own voice and words still rang true. I think he managed to articulate a sensibility that described a profound period of change in both Ireland’s cultural constitution and his own personal psychology. It was a deep surprise to learn of it when he passed away, because he was a very vital force, and only a year older than I.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I didn’t get very far into Anam Cara, only the first 10 pages or so, before realising that I needed to have my own copy of this. So I ordered it.

      You’ve led your own kind of Gurdjieffian existence, misterdirk, “meetings with remarkable men” — William Irwin Thompson, John O’Donohue (both Irish). Are you Irish by chance?

      Yes… when I read of his sudden death in his bio, it came as a surprise that he had died so quickly and in his sleep.

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