“One way, and I think this is a really lovely way, and I think it’s an interesting question to ask oneself too, and the question is, when is the last time that you had a great conversation, a conversation which wasn’t just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture? But when had you last a great conversation in which you overheard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew, that you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost and a sense of an event of a conversation that brought the two of you onto a different plane, and then, fourthly, a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterwards? And I’ve had some of them recently, and it’s just absolutely amazing. They’re like, as we would say at home, they are food and drink for the soul.
Second thing, I think, a question to always ask oneself — who are you reading? Who are you reading? And where are you stretching your own boundaries? Are you repetitive in that? And one of the first books I read as a child — we had no books at home, but a neighbor of ours had all these books, and he brought loads of books. That’s how I ruined my eyes, like, and I have to wear glasses. [laughs] But one of the first books I read was a book by Willie Sutton, the bank robber, who was doing 30 years for robbing banks. And in the book somebody asked Willie, and they said, “Willie, why do you rob banks?” And Willie said, “Because that’s where the money is.” And why do we read books? Because that’s where the wisdom is.
So like my professors in colleges always used to say, if you were doing an essay or doing a thesis, the first thing you have to do is read the primary sources and trust your own encounter with them before you go to the secondary literature. And I’d say to anybody who is listening to us, who is interested in spirituality and who is maybe being coaxed a little away from believing it’s all a naïve, doomed, illusion-ridden thing — pick up something like Meister Eckhart or some one of the mystics and just have a look at it, and you could be surprised what an exciting adventure and homecoming it could become.”-John Donahue, “The Inner Landscape of Beauty.” On Being with Krista Tippett. February 28, 2008.