There’s something about Christmas that prompts people to get in touch, to reach out, to check in. Memories are dusted off as we reminisce or explain older friends to newer friends or newer friends to older friends. As the miles and minutes between the last in-person meeting mount up, friendships wax and wane.
There are some friends, though, just a few, that are hardwired into our souls. The ones who know us. Really know us. And are still there.
On 1 January 1956, John O’Donohue was born into a family in West Clare. He’d go on to study in Maynooth and become a priest. I spoke recently of the relevance of the Church and this man embodies it. He died in France on 4 January 2008. I never got to hear him or to meet him. But he ranks up there on my list of people who have made their presence felt in my life. He made my soul real.
Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.
O’Donohue explains it better than I ever could:
In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world was the “soul friend.”
In everyone’s life, there is a great need for an anam cara, a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home.
The anam cara experience opens a friendship that is not wounded or limited by separation or distance. Such friendship can remain alive even when the friends live far away from each other. Because they have broken through the barriers of persona and egoism to the soul level, the unity of their souls is not easily severed. When the soul is awakened, physical space is transfigured. Even across the distance, two friends can stay attuned to each other and continue to sense the flow of each other’s lives. With your anam cara you awaken the eternal.