Human identity is complex. Nothing is ever given simply or immediately. Even the simplest act of perception has many layers…Time and memory often reveal things later that were staring us in the eye, but we never noticed them. The quest for the truth of things is never ending. To be human is to be ambivalent. Every experience is open to countless readings and interpretations. We never see a thing completely. In sure anticipation, our eyes have always already altered what awaits our gaze.The search for truth is difficult and uncomfortable. Because the mystery is too much for us, we may opt to settle for the surface of things. Comfort becomes more important than true presence. This is precisely why we need to hear the discerning voice.
Somewhere in every heart there is a discerning voice. This voice distrusts the status quo. It sounds out the falsity in things and encourages dissent from the images things tend to assume. It underlines the secret crevices where the surface has become strained. It advises distance and opens up a new perspective through which the concealed meaning of a situation might emerge…Its intention is to keep the heart clean and clear. This voice is an inner whisper not obvious or known to others outside..Yet much depends on that small voice. The truth of its whisper marks the line between honor and egoism, kindness and chaos. In extreme situations, which have been emptied of all shelter and tenderness, that small voice whispers from somewhere beyond and encourages the heart to hold out for dignity, respect, beauty and love. That whisper brings forgotten nobility into an arena where violence has traduced everything. This faithful voice can illuminate the dark lands of despair. It becomes both the sign and presence of a transcendence that no force or horror can extinguish. Each day in the world, in the prisons, hospitals and killing fields, against all the odds, this still, small voice continues to echo the beauty of the human being. In haunted places this voice carries the light of beauty like a magical lantern to transform desolation, to remind us that regardless of what may be wrenched from us, there is a dignity and hope that we do not have to lose. This voice brings us directly into contact with the inalienable presence of beauty in the soul.
— John O’Donohue, from Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (pp. 74-75)