7 May 2017

REFLECTIONS IN IRELAND


Ireland: you were good to me. You provided me with much locally-made chocolate, a wonderful host who gave me a whirlwind tour of the south over the course of seven days (thank you again, Cliona!) and some moments of calm, solitude and beauty which were deeply needed and appreciated. You made me rethink why I am so in love with the past, and what it means to live in the present. In fact, the past, present and future are not disparate but flow in and through one another; as do all our lives, collectively and individually. 


The Ireland I saw was ancient ruins, rugged landscapes, friendly strangers with heavy accents, ubiquitous pubs, public markets, a secret beach, stormy weather followed by sunny days, mossy rocks, seagulls, a creepy abandoned mill (there was definitely SOMETHING moving in there), long walks along the water, quiet mornings in a delightfully empty house, and a continuation of my deepening love affair with the British Isles. I cannot wait to visit again. It feels like home. 

The Ireland I saw allowed me to acknowledge that being nostalgic for the past is really just loving the human condition. I am fascinated by history because it's a reflection of the Here and Now. Looking behind us in time is looking in a sort of mirror: we see a version of ourselves from only a moment ago. We can understand where we came from, why we are here and ultimately who we are. Just as time is not actually cut into clear pieces (though we like to pretend otherwise), my humanity and identity are not easily reduced into binary or discordant categories. The nature of the human experience and the nature of time have so many shared characteristics. 


I've been reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula on this trip. They expose the fact of our fleeting human emotions: passionate waves of joy, terror, love, pain. I get swept up in the chapters describing a bygone world: a world which had a significantly smaller population and couldn't conceive of our now necessary daily tools like the internet and cellphones, a world less invested in globalized capitalism (perhaps), a world less impacted by climate change. Wandering around ancient ruins in my time here brought up similar feels. Of course, previous eras - in Western Europe anyway - came with a ton of bullshit. Women couldn't vote or own property. LGBTQIA+ folks were officially invisible. People of colour were institutionally Othered. Working classes had close to no opportunities to improve their standard of living. 

Weighing in all this I still come across a gently decaying thousands-year old stone building on walk through southern Ireland and yearn to gain more insight into the time it was built. Who lived and loved there? What did they dream about? What did they eat? Why and when did they leave? Why did they choose this place to build? What did they see through their windows and eyes? 


I am fascinated, entranced and seduced by anything to do with history. People here still live in and among homes that were built hundreds of years ago, and there are several stone ceremony sites near where I stayed that are many thousands of years old. I could spend the rest of my life daydreaming about what people did here 300 or 3,000 years ago. Were they happy? Did they think about death? Did they have a favourite time of day? Favourite food? But I also recognize that as I exist, my life becomes a sort of past and develops its own history. One day all my thoughts, objects, and emotions will be 3,000 years old. 


Being so nostalgic for what has passed and previously taken place in this universe helps me remember that like everything: it's aaall connected. There is no line separating Then from Now. In a moment, today will be tomorrow. Each period of time - recorded or not - has been and will be a nuanced mixture of experiences, innovations, tragedies and triumphs. I largely like to romanticize the past because it's a form of escapism for me. But spending time contemplating what's gone is equally a source of inspiration and education. I can learn from what others have done or not done, thought or not thought, felt or not felt. I can learn for myself as a person and we can all learn as a global community. 

Having the opportunity to visit spaces where I feel so linked to the past causes me to pause and reflect on my own role in "time". When I theorize on why a family might have chosen to build their fortress in a certain spot 800 years ago, I realize people will almost certainly contemplate why and how we live as we do now. The past is a mirror for the present, and a continuation of it. Time is an incomprehensible and mutable thing, just as the human spirit.