Julie Christine's Reviews > Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong

Eternal Echoes by John O'Donohue
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Some books simply find you. They enter your life at the right time, when you are most in need of and receptive to hearing their message. This book. My soul. The Universe recognized what I needed and offered up these words in response.

I've been aware of John O'Donohue's work for some time: I have a collection of his poetry, gifted by a dear friend, that I dip into and feel embraced by; I've been to a writing residency at Anam Cara in southwest Ireland, named for one of his works of essays and reflections. But it wasn't until I read a quote in the amazing weekly newsletter of curated wisdom, Maria Popova's Brain Pickings (you must subscribe, you simply must) that I learned of Eternal Echoes and knew it was the book for me, at this time, in this place.
There is a divine restlessness in the human heart. Though our bodies maintain an outer stability and consistency, the heart is an eternal nomad. No circle of belonging can ever contain all the longings of the human heart. As Shakespeare said, we have “immortal longings.” All human creativity issues from the urgency of longing.

That quote has become the centerpiece of the talk I give at author readings, for it speaks not only to the central themes of my novel, but to the themes playing out in my life.

Eternal Echoes is about coming to terms with the emptiness inherent to one's soul, an emptiness we seek to fill with religion or drugs, love or work, instead of accepting that it is the very space inside we need, in order to grow into our compassion, our true selves.
There is something within you that no one or nothing else in the world is able to meet or satisfy. When you recognize that such unease is natural, it will free you from getting on the treadmill of chasing ever more temporary and partial satisfactions. This eternal longing will always insist on some door remaining open somewhere in all the shelters where you belong. When you befriend this longing, it will keep you awake and alert to why you are here on earth.
For this reader, acknowledging and living with this longing has been a particularly painful and recent exploration. I am a problem-solver by nature and when something is off, when my soul is akilter, my instinct is to root out the source of the maladjustment and fix it. It's hard to accept that I need to sit with my discomfort and listen to what it is trying tell me.
Most of the activity in society is subconsciously designed to quell the voice crying in the wilderness within you. The mystic Thomas à Kempis said that when you go out into the world, you return having lost some of yourself. Until you learn to inhabit your aloneness, the lonely distraction and noise of society will seduce you into false belonging, with which you will only become empty and weary.
By necessity, I have been spending a lot of time "in society" lately, losing bits of myself along the way. And the more time I spend engaged in society, the more Fernando Pessoa's lament from The Book of Disquiet (yet another collection of wisdoms that has found its way to me at the right time): my “passions and emotions (are) lost among more visible kinds of achievement.”

Eternal Echoes is informed by Celtic mysticism and a fluid Christian theology. Although I am not a Christian and actively avoid anything that smacks of faith-based advice, O'Donohue's approach is philosophical rather than theological. It is something akin to gnosticism, that compels the individual to be an active participant in her own journey to wholeness, not a blind believer in an all-powerful god. He writes of allowing in vulnerability, for vulnerability leads to wonder, and wonder leads to seeking, and seeking leads to growth, and growth makes room for everyone else.

Dog-eared and underlined and highlighted and journaled, Eternal Echoes enters my library of go-to soulcatchers, along with the writings of Richard Hugo, Rilke and Pessoa, Woolf, Didion and Solnit: writers who understand what it means to allow in the darkness and sit tight while it slowly becomes light.
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Reading Progress

February 2, 2016 – Started Reading
February 2, 2016 – Shelved
February 2, 2016 – Shelved as: writing-companions
February 2, 2016 – Shelved as: social-political-commentary
February 2, 2016 – Shelved as: poetry
February 2, 2016 –
page 11
3.62% "'The human heart is a theatre of longing'\n \n I can read only a few pages at a time. This book takes my breath away."
February 2, 2016 – Shelved as: ireland-theme-setting
February 14, 2016 –
page 51
16.78% "'When you fence in the desires of your heart within fixed walls of belief, morality, and convention, you dishonor the call to discovery. You create grey fields of "quiet desperation." Discovery is the nature of the soul. There is some wildness of divinity in us, calling us to live everything. \n \n "To be dead is to stop believing in / The masterpieces we will begin tomorrow." Patrick Kavanagh.'"
February 18, 2016 –
page 73
24.01% "'Your longing frequently takes you on inner voyages that no one would ever guess. Longing is the deepest and most ancient voice in the human soul. It is the secret source of all presence, and the driving force of all creativity and imagination; longing keeps the door open...""
February 23, 2016 –
page 103
33.88% "'To grow into the person that your deepest longings desires is a great blessing. If you can find a creative harmony between your soul and your life, you will have found something infinitely precious. You may not be able to do much about the problems of the world or to change the situation you are in, but if you can awaken the eternal beauty and light of your soul, you will being light to wherever you go.""
February 28, 2016 –
page 144
47.37% "'Habit is a strong invisible prison. Habits are styles of feeling, perception, or action that have now become second nature to us. A habit is a sure cell of predictability; it can close you off from the unknown, the new, and the unexpected.""
March 3, 2016 –
page 194
63.82% "'Though you live and work in the light, you were conceived and shaped in the darkness. Darkness is one of our closest companions. It can never really surprise us; something within us know the darkness more deeply than it knows the light.""
March 4, 2016 – Shelved as: best-of-2016
March 4, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
March 4, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn This book came to me at the right time, too--through you. I took pages and pages of notes for my WIP from the prologue alone. I ordered the book today based on your review, my soul sister.


Julie Christine Kathryn wrote: "This book came to me at the right time, too--through you. I took pages and pages of notes for my WIP from the prologue alone. I ordered the book today based on your review, my soul sister."

I am so thrilled this spoke to you. That it's brought you to a new place in your writing is sheer joy. Kathryn. How grateful I am for you! xoxo Juie


message 3: by Suzy (new)

Suzy This sounds wonderful and right on time for me too! I have requested it from the library and will see if I want to add to my own collection. While searching the library, I found this - Longing and belonging : the complete John O'Donohue audio collection. (Sounds True audio learning course) 33 hours. Looks like this might be O'Donohue reading.


Julie Christine Suzy wrote: "This sounds wonderful and right on time for me too! I have requested it from the library and will see if I want to add to my own collection. While searching the library, I found this - Longing and ..."

Wow. I will seek this out- thank you, Suzy!


Cliff Great review ☺


Julie Christine Cliff wrote: "Great review ☺"

Thank you, Cliff!


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