Beneath all Grief, the Most Fundamental of Realities is Joy Itself

Several years ago I went to hear a talk on abstract and ancient art. The speaker was a delicate woman frocked in a black and white habit with round, owl-like glasses and possessing a bubbly, yet soft and lispy voice. Unexpectedly, her words changed how I looked at art. She made artists that sometimes seemed cold, inaccessible or even forbidding come alive with humour, wit and a generous dose of humanity.

Sister Wendy Beckett emerged from a life of quiet prayer to bring this world of art to others. She died in 2018 at the age of 88, but lately I have been revisiting her books and clips on Youtube featuring her commentary. She was famous in art circles for her documentaries, but her spirituality was of a kind that is rare in this modern world. Her hermit life was a response to caring for humanity, not the opposite. She said: “it’s one reason I have to live in solitude, I can often pick up what’s going on inside somebody, what they’re really like, and it can be distressing when someone is being cheerful and you’re picking up signs that there’s something gravely wrong inside them.”

Solitary, contemplative and personally devoted, yet fiercely critical of the church, the trappings of religious life, and of those who use it to batter or repress others. She was not afraid to take bold stances either, whether it was fighting the censorship of art, defending reproductive choice, or supporting marriage equality.

But it was the communication of her deep love of art and its essential importance to being human that stands out the most to me. She understood that art conveys our fears, hopes, failings and ecstasy to each other. That the mysteries that bind us together are sacred. And in this world of increasing ugliness, despair and bitterness, remembering this has been an invaluable balm to my soul.

“This is the real power of joy, to make us certain that, beneath all grief, the most fundamental of realities is joy itself.”Sister Wendy Beckett (25 February 1930 – 26 December 2018)

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

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2 thoughts on “Beneath all Grief, the Most Fundamental of Realities is Joy Itself

  1. thisistomsin

    Thank you, Kenn. This is amazing to me, as not more than a week ago while I despairing, and lost in sorrow over my darling little doggie girl m, having just tragically and surprisingly died – this came to me , as my life most exquisite and becoming realization:

    “ Lyla, now being seen as my joy… means that the more joy I can cultivate and celebrate, the more that I feel her, and feel happy.”

    To see this tender wonder reflected so brilliantly here, by you who I so dearly respect , is another beautiful synchronicity and gift… that Mayes my heart sing. May the days always sing you the loveliest of songs, my far away yet ever close friend,

    Liked by 1 person


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