Being Here

Humans have an uncanny ability to domesticate everything they touch. Eventually even the strangest things become absorbed into the routine of the daily mind with its steady geographies of endurance, anxiety and contentment. Only seldom does the haze lift and we glimpse for a second the amazing plenitude of being here.

Sometimes, unfortunately, it is suffering or threat that awakens us. It could happen that one evening you are busy with many things, netted into your role, and the phone rings. Someone you love is suddenly in the grip of an illness that could end their life within hours. It only takes a few seconds to receive that news. Yet when you put the phone down, you are already standing in a different world. All you know has just been rendered unsure and dangerous. You realize that the ground has turned into quicksand. Now it seems to you that even mountains are suspended on strings.

If you could imagine the most incredible story ever, it would be less incredible than the story of being here. And the ironic thing is it is not a story, it is true. It takes us so long to see where we are. It takes us even longer to see who we are. This is why the greatest gift you could ever dream is a gift that you can only receive from one person. And that person is you yourself. Therefore, the most subversive invitation you could ever accept is the invitation to awaken to who you are and where you have landed.

Plato said in The Symposium that one of the greatest privileges of a human life is to become midwife to the birth of the soul in another. When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become. The greatest friend of the soul is the unknown. Yet we are afraid of the unknown because it lies outside our vision and our control. We avoid it or quell it by filtering it through our protective barriers of domestication and control. The normal way never leads home.

Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns. Now you realize how precious your time here is. You are no longer willing to squander your essence on undertakings that do not nourish your true self; your patience grows thin with tired talk and dead language. You see through the rosters of expectation which promise you safety and the confirmation of your outer identity. Now you are impatient for growth, willing to put yourself in the way of change. You want your work to become an expression of your gift. You want your relationship to voyage beyond the pallid frontiers to where the danger of transformation dwells. You want your God to be wild and to call you to where your destiny awaits.

from The Question Holds the Lantern
by John O’Donohue (1 January 1956 – 4 January 2008), an Irish poet, author, priest, and philosopher.


  1. Wow!
    Awesome! Give me more.

  2. I so love, as many of us do, the great beauty and wisdom of John O’donohue. Thank you for posting this piece, Mary. I have always loved it, and love it every time I re-discover it.

    And yes, John died suddenly and unexpectantly three days after his 52nd birthday in 2008. Because he left us so much vision and so many works, we can visit him in these works and be guided to them on his website. One of my very favorite books is John’s book of blessings.

    I believe this uncertain place is where we all reside at this time. “All you know has just been rendered unsure and dangerous. You realize that the ground has turned into quicksand.” The best way to prepare, as John so wisely says, is to discover ourselves in this world, knowing all the while that we and the world we inhabit are the greatest and most amazing gifts given. The great and gracious gift of life.

    And yes, to be fearless in our pursuit of this gift, not throwing it away for anyone or anything, but holding the gift that we are to the world close by in our heart’s great desire to each find our own way home.

    “Therefore, the most subversive invitation you could ever accept is the invitation to awaken to who you are and where you have landed.” And “The normal way never leads home.”

    Best blessings to you for this always current quote, from an always very great human spirit. Sky Ann

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