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Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

We can throw away a soiled tissue. We can throw away Q-tips, outdated appliances, and countless other items in our everyday lives. But can we also discard our ill-founded thoughts and one-sided perceptions? Our cherished notions?

According to classical Buddhist teachings, many if not most of our perceptions are erroneous, and erroneous perceptions cause suffering. “Looking deeply into the wrong perceptions, ideas, and notions that are at the base of our suffering,” writes Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, “is the most important practice in Buddhist meditation.” And correspondingly, “the practice of throwing away our notions and views is so important. Liberation is not possible without this throwing away.” Yet, as Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to say, “it takes insight and courage to throw away an idea.” Views we have held for decades–or perhaps for a lifetime–are not so easily disposed of, especially when they appear to have served us well. (more…)

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Dennis O' DriscollPhoto by Kim Haughton

Dennis O’ Driscoll
Photo by Kim Haughton

“He gave the art a good name,” remarked the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney of the Irish poet Dennis O ’Driscoll, who died suddenly on Christmas Eve at the age of fifty-eight. Dennis was the author of nine collections of graceful, civilized verse and one of the most respected voices in contemporary Irish letters. I am saddened by his early death, as are many of his fellow writers, Irish and American, who remember him as a true gentleman and a generous friend. (more…)

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One April morning, twenty-five years ago, I found myself speaking with an elderly Irish farmer in his newly ploughed field. At the time I was living in County Monaghan, a rural midland county on the border with Northern Ireland. Prior to coming to Ireland, I had been reading the poems of Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967), who grew up on a farm in Monaghan and felt confined by the “black hills” of his native landscape. At the age of thirty-four Kavanagh left the family farm for Dublin and went on to become the most influential Irish poet of his time. The Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney has acknowledged his debt to Kavanagh’s work.

“I knew Paddy,” the farmer told me, leaning on his spade. “His father was a shoemaker. His mother couldn’t read or write. His fields were up there, over that hill. Paddy kept his books in his fence—in between the stones. I’d see him reading there for hours at a time. He was not a good farmer, not good at all. He paid no heed to his fields.” As if to clinch the point, he drove his spade forcefully into the soil. (more…)

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