Of all the books in life, perhaps one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read or will read is “Eternal Echoes” by the late John O’Donohue – “Exploring our hunger to belong” and, in doing so, capturing the poetic essence of all it means to be human.
Isn’t it true that “Everyone longs for intimacy and dreams of a nest of belonging in which one is embraced, seen and loved”? Also, that “Each one of us journeys alone into this world – and each one of us carries a unique world within our hearts”? This sense that “Each of us brings something alive in the world that is unique” seems such a beautiful, fundamental truth to keep in mind and somehow build our lives around.
Because, as O’Donohue explored, “Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves… A sense of belonging, however, suggests warmth, understanding and embrace… Our hunger to belong is the longing to bridge the gulf that exists between isolation and intimacy.” I often wonder how many of our personal and collective problems in life are essentially communicative – this struggle to be heard (Notes One).
How can we bring remote, scattered or isolated people into an understanding of “life” that encompasses us all? Now that our systems and travel habits are unquestioningly global – much of what we’re doing impacting so many others across the world – how can we grasp those realities and keep everyone who’s affected by it firmly in mind? It seems what’s required, if we’re to see humanity as one circle of belonging (Notes Two).
As O’Donohue says, in relation to modern life, “Consumerism propels us towards an ever-more lonely and isolated existence” and “although technology pretends to unite us, more often than not all it delivers are simulated images that distance us from our lives.” Written slightly before the dramatic transformation those strands of modernity brought to our lives, it’s fascinating to consider how he might’ve described things today.
Given the many challenges we’re all facing within modern society, it seems so important to grasp the underlying sense of what it is to be human – what we truly need to feel our lives are valued, purposeful, meaningful in the eyes of others. Technology might well make our lives “easier”, but if that’s coming at the cost of true understanding and connectedness it seems a high price to pay (Notes Three).
In reality, every sentence of this book deserves to be quoted; which seems to imply it’s simply a wonderful reflection of the value of our inner lives, the validity of our struggles, and the importance of grasping (and, holding onto) what makes us human. Then, ensuring that those essential qualities aren’t allowed to just be swept away or misdirected within all the fast-moving insistence of modern living (Notes Four).
Seeing life in terms of dislocated souls seeking belonging might make sense of many things; so, I really couldn’t recommend this book more highly for offering a fresh, beautiful, yet powerful perspective on our existence.
Notes and References:
“Eternal Echoes. Exploring our hunger to belong” by John O’Donohue, (Bantam Books, GB), 2000 (originally 1998).
Note 1: Going towards the unknown
Note 1: Does being alone amplify things?
Note 2: True relationship within society?
Note 2: Do we know what stands before us?
Note 2: What it is to be human
Note 3: Trust in technology?
Note 3: The insatiable desire for more
Note 3: Detaching from the world around us
Note 3: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 4: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 4: Society that doesn’t deal with the soul
Note 4: Losing the sense of meaning