As we all continue to adjust to a growing atmosphere of uncertainty, anxieties and worries about what’s next in the political and economic spheres, I came across a book in my library that I had forgotten having purchased: John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. This Irish writer from Conamara, Ireland, who is immensely popular across the globe, offers 7 areas in which he believes blessings can be beneficial, if not healing. In a dark time and in a landscape littered with confusion and outright cruelty and intolerance, what he writes in the Introduction felt to me like a soft light penetrating the darkness of divisiveness. He writes that “The word blessing evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable. Each life is clothed in raiment of spirit that secretly links it to everything else.”
Blessings, his words imply, is a way out of the barren landscape of bigotry and intolerance, of self-absorption and a “win/lose” mind set that fixes us in place with a vengeance and whose energy disallows change, much less conversation. He goes on to lay out the book’s purpose: “to illuminate the gift that a blessing can be, the doors it can open, the healing and transfiguration it can bring. Our times are desperate for meaning and belonging.” I don’t think he is referring to the belonging of tribalism, or the belonging that leads us to watch one news channel to the exclusion of others; no, something more is at stake, something bigger than us, but that blessings can access.
His hope in writing this gracious series of meditations is that “we could discover our power to bless one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. . . . Let us begin to learn how to bless one another. Whenever you give a blessing, a blessing returns to enfold you.”
O’Donohue’s book has helped me to shape my attitude as I enter the New Year, a threshold to a new beginning, an occasion for a fresh perspective and a fresh start. I have never done well with New Year’s Resolutions. They always feel like failures before I even begin. But to think about the New Year or the next phase through the aperture of blessing one another is worth a go.
Dennis P. Slattery
Dennis Patrick Slattery Ph.D., has been teaching for more than 50 years, the last 26 of which has been in the Mythological Studies Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California, where he is currently Emeritus Faculty.More Posts by Dennis P. Slattery