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Book review - On life and living

From the earliest times people have pondered why we are here and what life is all about. Saol – Thoughts from Ireland on Life and Living is a compilation of insights into what is truly important from well known Irish thinkers.

This is a feel-good book in more than one sense. As well as feeling smooth and welcoming to the touch, the short contemplations offer a welcome respite from today’s frenetic pace, which is succinctly described by Catherine Conlon in the introduction to her book.

For the compilation, Catherine Conlon, a lecturer in epidemiology and public health at University College Cork, tracked down people from various walks of life, not all well known but all thinkers, to get their answers to questions such as: what is it to be alive in 2014? What gives meaning to life? What does it mean to lead a useful life? What will be my legacy?

Contributors include: Christina Noble, Peter McVerry, Dermot Bolger, Sr Stan, Maureen Gaffney, Colm O’Gorman, Alice Taylor, Peter Sheridan, Tony Humphreys and many others.

Some thoughtful insights include:

  • Carlo Gébler believes he is here, through a series of benign accidents, to fulfil a non-negotiable obligation, the care of an imagination
  • Bill O’Herlihy wants to be remembered as someone who tried his best. Quietly
  • Arminta Wallace believes she was put on this earth to answer emails
  • Barry Egan believes meditation has helped him to be less of a “moody crankypants”
  • Colm Keena rejoices in grammar, “one of the evolutionary wonders of the world”
  • Pat Storey, the first female bishop in western Europe, believes that having a sense of purpose is one of the keys to unlocking happiness in life
  • R osita Boland is frequently inspired by urban graffiti by the street artist Maser near her home that proclaims: “You Are Alive. Avail of this once in a lifetime opportunity”.

The intention is that the collection will inspire self-reflection and lead us to reconsider our notions of the real value of our lives.

In the closing reflection of the book, Catherine Conlon puts it succinctly: “I think I am here to love; to love life and the people in my life. In order to do that I must first love myself”.

– Tara Horan

Book review - On life and living
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