May 29, 2024

Michel O’Siadhail Reads His Quartet Desire at CFI Event 

Melissa Mercedes '25

On February 5 the Center for Faith and Inquiry (CFI) at Gordon College hosted renowned Irish poet Micheal O’Siadhail, who graced campus with a reading of his quartet of poems. The quartet is entitled Desire and invites the audience to ponder the important question, “what is worthy of our desire?” 

By recalling his own and universally shared experiences lived during the Covid-19 pandemic, O’Siadhail brought attention to human nature and its greedy tendencies. Manifested through rampant consumerism, deliberate harm to the earth we inhabit, and deeply rooted individualism, human greed was visible not only during the collective response to the health crisis that started in 2020, but continues to manifest itself today, everywhere we look. Switching between energetically reading his poetry and providing further commentary on his writing, O’Siadhail embarked his audience on an introspective journey. 

“Garden given us to dress and keep, in our greed we mar.” Speaking on the role of the human hand in climate change, O’Siadhail recalled that the word “crisis” comes from the Greek “κρίσις,” which means “decision,” deriving from “κρίνω,” which, in turn, means “distinguish” and “decide.” The poet highlights the significance of this word when referring to the current climate crisis, demonstrating that it is our responsibility to decide to see the present crisis as either an impending disaster or a unique opportunity for change. He calls us to decide and take action. 

The overconsumption that characterizes the Western world is an active participant in the oppression and degradation of our earth. “Even in our excess, we still dread our own precariousness.” In the endless spending, there is also the need to perform, the perpetual audience syndrome. “Can we no longer have a secluded place, a retreat, a concealed abode?” Social media has made everything public. “Alexa is listening.”  

In the saturated reality of wanting more and always being seen, we distract ourselves with a bottomless desire for more. But we have learned to despise waiting: “Each desire quenched at the speed of dreams.” We fail to realize, “Half of our delight was in the wait.” And when there is little need to practice patience, when the pending thrill becomes immediate satisfaction, we do not savor life the way we did when we had time. “What we want now everybody deems better all at once than one by one.” From material possessions to resume virtues, everyone wants more. “What is all this craving for success, endless need to score a better score?” “Up and up, we climb the greasy pole,” trying to gain the whole world only to lose our soul, as Jesus said in Matthew 26:16. 

But not all is lost. O’Siadhail encouraged his listeners to reshape their wants. That, too, implies a decision—“Will we trust fulfillment in God’s joy?” Rather than resigning ourselves to ultimate doom, we must take up the opportunity to care for what we were given. Love God, love our neighbor, love creation. It is our responsibility to reorient our desire. “All creation loved for love’s own sake?” 

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