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anam cara

(Soul Friend)


John O’Donohue


True Listening is Worship.


With the sense of hearing, we listen to creation. One of the greatest thresholds in reality is the threshold between sound and silence. All good sounds have silence near them, behind and within them. The first sound that every human hears is the sound of the mother’s heartbeat in the dark waters of the womb. This is the reason for our ancient resonance with the drum as a musical instrument. The sound of the drum brings us consolation because it brings us back to that time when we were at one with the mother’s heartbeat. That was a time of complete belonging. No separation had yet opened; we were completely in unity with another person. P.J. Curtis, the great Irish authority on rhythm and blues music, often says that the search for meaning is really the search for the lost chord. When the lost chord is discovered by humankind, the discord in the world will be healed and the symphony of the universe will come into complete harmony with itself.


It is lovely to have the gift of hearing. There is a very important distinction to be made between listening and hearing. Sometimes we listen to things, but we never hear them. True listening brings us in touch even with that which is unsaid and unsayable. Sometimes the most important thresholds of mystery are places of silence. To be genuinely spiritual is to have great respect for the possibilities and presence of silence.


Music is after all the most perfect sound to meet the silence. When you really listen to music, you begin to hear the beautiful way it constellates and textures the silence, how it brings out the hidden mystery of silence.


The wonderful conductor Sergiu Celibidache said, ‘We do not create music; we only create the conditions so that she can appear’.


Music is, perhaps, the art form that brings us closest to the eternal because it changes immediately and irreversibly the way we experience time. When we are listening to beautiful music, we enter into the eternal dimension of time. Transitory, broken linear time fades away and we come into the circle of belonging within the eternal.