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Who was John Moriarty

By Rodrigo Manterola

Conversations with my Godfather; Growing up with John Moriarty

“It’s a tremendous thing, to be in harmony with the music of what happens”

John Moriarty

John Moriarty was an Irish philosopher and writer, and maybe, one of the greatest thinkers Ireland, and the world has ever seen. But like many other great minds, he lived ahead of its time.

Now imagine having this great mind, a great philosopher, as your godfather.

The Godfather

Imagine the bedtime stories, the jokes, and the invitation to discover, and figure out the unknown in every game. That must be one lucky Irish girl.

Lorna had that kind of luck; John Moriarty was her godfather.

I think Lorna’s childhood was privileged in many ways …and yes, like many of us, she also had to face the reality of the world she lived in,  life wasn’t always easy, but that’s the way it is, isn’t it?

Lorna got to grow up in one of the most beautiful places this world has to offer; a beautiful old house known as The Anglers Return located by the Owenmore River in Connemara on the West coast of Ireland

John once said:

“The Owenmore River gave me sensation. In giving me perception uncontaminated by conception, it gave me soul. It was redemption…”

John Moriarty

To talk about John from this particular point of view, we need to talk about Lorna as her goddaughter.

Lorna came into existence in 1985, the same year the world was faced with the first version of Microsoft Windows, and the Song “We are the world” by Michael Jackson, was looking to ease hunger and conflict in Africa.

That same year Mexico City was hit by an earthquake killing thousands of people, the Compact Disc was introduced in the market, and Greenpeace’s ship Rainbow Warrior was sunk by French agents.

The world was evolving into a different era, an era, I think, wasn’t ready for John just yet.

At that time I was eleven years old, and living in Mexico City …yup, I was there during the Mexico City earthquake. Little I knew that year was going to change my life so dramatically

Back in Ireland, Lorna was being born, her birth certificate states, Galway city, but some say she was born in the back seat of her mum’s car on the road from Toombeola, where her home was, some 80 Km away.

I think it doesn’t matter where she was born; she was born to be special.

Days at The Anglers Return, Connemara

By the time Lorna was born, john Moriarty had been living in the Anglers Return for years, the house was, and still is a bed and breakfast, owned and operated by Lorna’s mum Lynn. At the Anglers, John was like another member of the family.

While life at the Anglers Return revolved around busy summers filled with tourists, artists, friends. And windy and rainy winters so cold, it would cut the skin off of your face, John was busy writing.

John Moriarty’s den was in an old cottage next to the main house. A damped old building built sometime in the 19th century along with the main house; all part of the Ballynahinch castle now a beautiful and luxurious hotel.

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Ballynahinch Castle

At the time, and probably throughout his entire life, John Moriarty struggled with the facts of life, faith, and all the things philosophers struggle with. That’s their job right?

John Moriarty wrote some 8 books while living in the Anglers Return, and for 15 years of Lorna’s life, he was there to answer the questions of the soul, the kind of questions the mind can’t answer, or can’t answer without going mad.

John found inspiration in the bog, in the mountains. He found inspiration in the lake and rivers; thousands of them

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This photo was taken from the Anglers Return looking into the River by Lorna

He found inspiration in the reflections of the mountains in the lake, and in the simple life of a family from the west coast of Ireland…  And I think them, the family, did too, they also found inspiration in John’s life and words; in John’s joy, struggle, and pain.

John once said…

“Looking at the mirrored mountains, I had pity for language. If only language could mirror reality the way the unintentional lake does”

John Moriarty

John Moriarty was a religious man for most of his life. But one day he wandered…

“…A question asked itself inside of me”

John Moriarty

One day he fell out of his story and got into a conflict with his holy book.

When you fall out from your own story every cultural trade and every god associated with it goes as well.

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Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

John once wrote…

“It is in the experiences of the great depths that a yearning for the great heights is born…“

 “We talk about the journey to God. But what I am more interested in is God’s journey to us…”

John Moriarty

In his books John allows glimpses of his mind to escape through the cracks of his lines, he was a very complex man, and his writing reflected that. You need a chisel and a hammer while you read through some of the pages.

In his youth, and throughout his life, he was always hungry for knowledge in order to answer his own questions, and therefore the great questions of life.

Raised in Christianity, he was educated in a way that made many of the facts of life to collide with his fate.

He also said that after years of the finest west European education, as he used to call it, science and culture were in conflict with his own spiritual being,

 “De-civilize yourself from culture and religion”

John Moriarty

John lived the life of an academic man, for a while. He moved to Canada and became a teacher at the University of Manitoba and lived, fell in and out of love, and experimented with Native American cultural myths.

It was in America, and precisely while near a different way of spirituality, that John feels linked back into the world.

“I had collided with what I had become”

“…I was looking for the myths that would explain me, to me.”

John Moriarty

The Native American stories

The Native American stories allowed him to feel both worlds; the physical and the spiritual world. Like a Rosetta stone for the soul.

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Photo by Dyaa Eldin on Unsplash

“Unless there’s wildness around you, something terrible happens to the wildness inside you

…and if wildness inside you dies, I think you’re finished”

“How wise these people were, I thought, to have believed that we share our fields with other beings…”

John Moriarty

Being in close contact with this cultural variance of what’s holy, and being able to contrast his own experience, allowed him to re-connect, to find his “bush-soul” as he called it.

“The where I am and the who I am, are intimately connected”

John Moriarty

It was probably this way John found a way for god to find his way back to him again.

He went on a quest, a personal quest to find that connection with himself lost long ago.

The Monastic Life

“We need a shelter, deep down in our souls and our minds we need our religions and myths to shelter us”

John Moriarty
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Photo by Luca Baggio on Unsplash

John was in the need of living a monastic life, a life of religious schedules, and no distractions from the mundane world.

He eventually moved back to Ireland and found the shelter of monastic life with the Carmelites where he followed another passion of his; gardening.

He loved open spaces, nature, and the feeling of belonging to this. He wrote…

“So marvelous is the landscape that I couldn’t even call it landscape. It is a continuous manifestation of wonder”

John Moriarty

Gardening for the Carmelites in exchange for accommodation, food, and introspection, was a done deal for him.

John would keep gardening his way up to Connemara, where he found in The Anglers Return a similar agreement, and where he eventually would feel at home, live and write for more than a decade.

John Moriarty and Lynn Hill gardening at The Anglers Return, Connemara, Ireland
John Moriarty and Lynn Hill gardening at The Anglers Return 1980s

“The quill and the spade” he’d say…

The Ecologist

John was an ecologist in a time when ecology wasn’t even a thing, at least not in popular knowledge. And this is where, I think, he was way ahead of his time. He once said…

“The arrogance of thinking that if we know things in their composition and construction we know them…

…The human race has the right to destroy itself, accepted; but we’ve to destroy the biosphere of plants and animals in the process?”

John Moriarty

The importance of understanding our relationship with what surrounds us was probably inspired in those Native American stories and Myths.

The relevance of this in our spiritual life, and therefore the need for a structure, a shelter, was for sure what the catholic religion gave him. He said…

“Because we’ve lost touch with our soul, we can’t see soul in anything else”

John Moriarty

John was a Mystic, and a scholar, no doubt. He was a timeless man whose work is just recently understood and studied

John’s Mortality

John died in Co. Kerry, where he was from, he was taken away after battling with illness, but even then, he was admiring his own process. He once said…

“…I am talking about those moments were my mortality is a sensuous way of experience my immortality”

John Moriarty
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John’s tombstone in Co. Kerry

For John, dying was the ultimate trip. Life was all about a series of journeys within the great adventure life is.

Our Film

A couple of years ago Lorna and I made a memoir film commemorating John’s 10th mournful anniversary for the Clifden Arts Festival.

For me, this was an opportunity to know John, to read his work, and to understand him a little. It was a great opportunity to learn about him in relation to Lorna, and Lorna’s family and friends.

We hope you enjoy our film, and also, you find reasons to learn more about John Moriarty

This Post Has One Comment

  1. George Louis

    Loved the film 😍 am looking to reading Nostos an amazing life and soul missed by many 🙏

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