The Wisdom of the Ages by Dr Johanna Lynch, GP Psychotherapist

Ilze Groblergeneral

Sometimes in these days of amazing technological advances, we forget the wisdom of our communities, the knowledge of how people have coped with adversity for generations, and the uniquely human capacity to see the hope of the mountaintop while still climbing out of the valley.

This last week – I had a lovely poem sent to me – written by a renowned Irish poet. When it comes to suffering, I think the Irish people have some right to teach us ways of coping with dark times. Their communities have suffered much through famine, civil war, migration and other forms of loss. And of course – they are also amazing story tellers. I am quite biased, on the subject of their prowess as story tellers – as some of my family are Irish – and I’ve experienced many an amazing tale round the dinner table. As well as story-telling, as this poem teaches, they are also able to see the joy, to laugh and dance and love of life.

Sometimes, when we work and live caring for those in distress, categorising our pain according to the measures of psychiatry or medicine, we miss the deep human goodness of hope, of generations of bravery, of innovation because we believe a better day is coming, and of community that comes from bearing the suffering together.

I hope this poem encourages us all – to see the love that is all around us, even when the canvas of our lives shows us its frayed edges:


On the day when

the weight deadens

on your shoulders,

may the clay dance

to balance you.

And when your eyes

freeze behind

the grey window

and the ghost of loss

gets in to you,

may a flock of colours,

indigo, red, green

and azure blue

come to awaken in you

a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays

in the currach of thought

and a strain of ocean

blackens beneath you,

may there come across the waters 

a path of yellow moonlight

to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,

may the clarity of light be yours,

may the fluency of the ocean be yours,

may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow

wind work these words

of love around you,

an invisible cloak

to mind your life.

John O’Donohue ‘Echoes of Memory’ 

Transworld Ireland ISBN 978-1-84827-074-9 

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