Pathos, Bathos, and the Bones of a Goat that was Born on a Sunday

This week marked the first week post-classes. I still have one more assignment, a fairly brief paper due Monday, and then I’ll truly be full-time dissertationing. Or, at least, that’s the general idea. We’ll see how that goes. One way or another, the coming months are sure to feature many days spent marathoning Nightmares in Dissertation Writing, my new show on Netflix (except not actually, I would never wish that on Netflix). The first two episodes weren’t great, but I’ll power through the whole series somehow.

Also, as regards this week’s title, I basically just wanted to use the word bathos. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s essentially a abrupt change from high, pathetic (in the literary sense) language to mundane, vulgar language. It’s often used for comic effect, but sometimes is done accidentally by people genuinely thinking they’re writing some lofty sentiment. Anyway, there’s a Wikipedia article on it if you’d like to investigate further. As far as the goat thing goes, two hundred points to anyone who knows the reference.

Also, totally unrelated to everything else in this post but important to me as a human being, I have a brief public service announcement. I often see things on Facebook that I disagree with, like politically. I like this, because it challenges me to really think about what I believe. Sometimes, though, there are gross factual errors. Normally, I don’t do anything about them. But I ought. Anyway: the gender wage gap. It has to do with the difference between men and women’s wages for the same job, not just average salaries of men and women or whatever. Women do tend to work fewer (paid) hours in jobs with lower salaries (which is both related to choice of career and the social construction of problematic gender roles), but that’s not really the core of the wage gap issue. There’s a helpful, brief video by John Green that tries to explain it, I think it’s a pretty well-thought and researched video. It’s obviously a super complicated topic, but it’s super important to think about complicated topics. Because informed citizens and things. Also, just being a good person. So there’s that. Sorrynotsorry for that little interlude.

So I went with a couple friends from church to Carlingford this past Saturday (while doing everything in my power to not do work). The forecast called for rain all day, but we were blessed with gorgeous weather. We went to hike up this…thing. I want to call it a mountain (because we climbed it and it was really crazy steep) but I can’t because it was actually just a hill. Ireland, you may be aware, has nothing that I would qualify as a mountain though, in its defense, it is far from flat.

Anyway, we got lost literally like two minutes into the walk. Luckily, we happened upon someone who knew his way around. He very kindly guided us around to the right path, which we promptly lost again, briefly, before finally getting onto the hill/mountain/big rocky thing springing out of the sea. The issue with going up meant that, while it continued to be mostly sunny, it ceased to be warm due to a wind insistent that I not get too pleased with the view. When nearly to the top, we (for reasons utterly unknown) decided to go as fast as we could to the end. This was problematic primarily for two reasons: it was incredibly slippery (rivulets and puddles all the way up, no idea where the water was coming from) and it was incredibly steep. In the interest of honesty, I should say that we didn’t actually go all the way to the top because of aforementioned sweatiness and general leg wobbliness, but we did get to the highest point overlooking the town. To go higher, we would have had to go backwards and lose sight of it. And on the way down I only slipped and fell once, which is remarkable if you only knew how very slippery and steep it was. Now, I’m not sure if I’ve said this already, but this big rocky thing was very slippery and very steep.

After the climb, we just walked around town for a bit, enjoying the castle, the marina, and a delightful little café. All in all, it was a wonderful visit to a wonderful town, definitely would recommend. It’s up in County Louth, right near the border, and it’s just a lovely area. The stereotypical Irish countryside with rolling green fields and loads of sheep. It was the perfect time, too, not only because of the weather but because of the lambs. So many lambs. Precious. And, of course, driving back into Dublin it hailed, then rained, then was sunny again. Because spring.

And on that note, the poem for this week. Again, this is one of my own compositions, meant to correspond directly with Autumn Rhapsody, a poem I posted in November as a part of a celebration of autumnal poetry. While this month is not exclusively spring-inspired, I thought I would write a sort of counterpart. It’s rather a paean to this season, a time neither of remembering nor forgetting but looking ahead. I hope you enjoy it.

Awakening Persephone
I leave the ill-lit pages of my dusty book to rise
and open the curtains—now is not a time for sitting
but venturing into the blossom of the morning as it ripens
like sun-kissed fruit hanging delectably on the vine. The honey-light
streams into the kitchen and I depart the constructed world
to breathe clearer breath beneath better skies untouched
by feeble hands. Under the sun’s strengthening rays,
branches only yesterday dead seem to tremble with life scarcely
concealed. The perfume of good, green things invites a hope
which cannot be dashed, even by sudden onslaughts of unexpected
rain. Quagmires of last year’s leaves and winter’s detritus and
time spent in still solemnity give way to the inevitable
shoots of tender saplings, somehow regal in their ineffable infancies.
The fierceness of black skies fails to dampen enthusiasm for brightness,
a brightness enlivened by continuous revelations of zoetic jewels which vanish
as quickly as they appear but leave fiery imprints in the minds of all
who saw them. Surrounded by the hesitant mist of slowly emerging green,
one cannot look back but only forward—now is the season of the future;
not, as some think, in rebirth, but in accepting the verve of verdant,
voluptuous life entering a body wearied by darker days now past.
This, this is the expectant age which seems to stretch onward into
the hazy distance forever and forever until the delicately colored hills
become oceans of undreamt dreams awaiting discovery. And my pace is
no longer a stroll nor even a stately march but a run, undignified and unrestrained,
in pursuit of memories as yet unmade.

Certainty of Death, Small Chance of Success

This is going to be rather a long post, so brace yourself or just give this one a miss. Personally, I think it’s worth a read. But then again, I am a little biased.

Firstly, the Easter Rising. I don’t want to say too much in the way of background, or even commentary, because it’s a complicated thing and I’m not Irish. But I’ll give you some cursory details and a bit of my personal experience and understanding and leave it at that.

For those of you who didn’t look it up last week, the Easter Rising was a sort of armed rebellion in Ireland, mostly Dublin, pressing for Irish independence from the British Empire in 1916. Americans, myself included, don’t often think of Ireland as a colony, but it totally was. Anyway, the Rising began on Easter Monday with the reading of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office. Essentially, there was a great deal of fighting all week with the rebels surrendering on Saturday. The GPO was almost totally destroyed, along with much of the surrounding neighborhood and central Dublin. Almost five hundred people died, over half of which were civilians, including forty children. All the planners of the Rising were executed. The Irish Free State was established in 1922 following three years of a war for independence as a British Dominion under home rule, followed by a further year of civil war. The Republic was declared in 1949 after the passage of a new constitution in 1937 and here we are, in the Republic of Ireland/Poblacht na hÉireann.

Anyway, the commemorations. They were omnipresent and comprehensive. Selected post boxes (normally green) were painted red, the color they were under British rule. Huge posters and sheets were up on buildings denoting specific events, picturing what the building looked like in 1916, with important figures from the history of the Irish independence movement, or simply with the 1916/2016 logo. On Sunday, there was a parade, as per usual, with an extensive military presence. An Uachtarán and Taoiseach (President and Prime Minister) were present, there was a wreath-laying at the GPO, and the Proclamation was read out. I watched this all from the comfort of the home of my pastor, where we had met for brunch and a ‘service’ because our normal church location was within the cordoned off zone of the city center. Afterwards, I went into town to see some of the aftermath and take some pictures.

On Easter Monday, also a state holiday, I went back into town for more 1916 (because I hadn’t gotten enough, apparently). I was lucky enough to be near (within earshot) of the Royal College of Surgeons when they laid the wreath (simultaneously to variety of other sites across the country) and played the national anthem on the bagpipes. If you’re unfamiliar with the Irish national anthem, familiarize yourself. It’s quite a song. Anyway, I wandered around St Stephen’s Green where they had set up a sort of period fair sort of thing. People had stilts and hula hoops, basically. One of my professors, the Wednesday before, referred to the “fetishization of 1916” and he was right on the mark. Ah, there’s so much to share but this post is already so long. If you have specific questions, I encourage you to ask (either me or Google, it’s all good). There was a lot going on, and things will continue for some time, I expect.

I saw a newspaper article on Easter Sunday about the Rising and commemorations and everything. I want to share the beginning of it with you, just to give you a small taste of being Irish in 2016 and how everything fits (or fails to fit) into the history and the present of this Irish Republic. The headline was Our Rebel Hearts.

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“It is fitting, isn’t it, that we can’t agree what it was about, or what it achieved, or what its legacy is, or how best to commemorate it. We could barely agree when to commemorate it. Easter, a movable feast, a date that shifts. Nothing is immutable in Ireland. Everything is up for change.”

I don’t know, like I said, I’m not Irish. But there’s one Irishman’s thoughts. How much is truly up for change, who can say. But a century on from 1916 certainly offers an opportunity to visualize the next century for Ireland and all the promises and challenges therein. And with that, I turn to a discussion of a different set of rebel hearts–the ones for which a certain Jew died approximately 2,000 years ago–and the annual commemoration thereunto appertaining.

You may know that I often really agonize coming up with titles for these posts. I feel like they are such a focal point, and I typically muse them over at length. This week was especially difficult to decide. Candidates included Cuimhnigh, Déan Machnamh, Athshamhlaigh (that’d be Remember, Reflect, Reimagine as the slogan for commemoration events outlined above) and Shepherd! or There’s Another Country (for reasons outlined below). But I went with this memorable Gimli quote and I’ll tell you why.

Basically, life is a terminal condition. And I don’t mean this in a depressing way (for once), but just as an observation of the inevitability of mortality. And, in the end, most of us will have little impact on the greater course of history. It just sort of is what it is. But life is life, too. And, as Gimli reminds us, what are we waiting for?

There’s a grand struggle about living in the world on a variety of levels. On the one hand, you have, like, spiritual warfare. On the other, you have, like, summoning the will to leave the house this week. Somewhere in between, you have the sorts of things that I often talk about in this blog: structural inequality, violence, systemic racism ect, ect, ect. Sometimes I feel like a part of that small group of soldiers standing outside the Black Gate. Quaking in tremendous fear. We, like they, cannot achieve victory through strength of arms. But by participating in the fight, we can participate in the victory. There’s something powerful about yelling and running into the fray. For Frodo. For a cause infinitely greater than ourselves. It’s not a perfect metaphor (no metaphor is–that’s why it’s a metaphor), but I think there’s something to it. For those of you less metaphorically inclined, I’m talking about Easter.

Anyway, just a few final thoughts for this week. I know I said that April was going to be a poetry month. And it will be. But I never said that March wasn’t going to be. So here, on this final day of the month, I have a couple things for you. The first is just a single stanza from a larger work by Cecil Spring Rice, some of you may be familiar with it–the third stanza of The Two Fatherlands well known through the hymn I Vow to Thee, My Country. The first two stanzas talk of patriotism and the sacrifices that the speaker is willing to make for love of country. It’s very nationalistic, but also influenced by the devastation of the Great War. The third stanza, though, takes a different tone altogether, it it’s what I think is relevant this week. So here it is.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Lastly, I’d like to leave you with a full poem. This is a translation from the Spanish by Longfellow of a poem by Lope de Vega called El Buen Pastor or The Good Shepherd. It’s a lovely and delicate sonnet. I find it moving any time, but particularly poignant in these days surrounding Easter. I’ll let it speak for itself and you may think of it as you wish.

Shepherd! who with thine amorous, sylvan song

Hast broken the slumber that encompassed me,

Who mad’st thy crook from the accursed tree,

On which thy powerful arms were stretched so long!

Lead me to mercy’s ever-flowing fountains;

For thou my shepherd, guard, and guide shalt be;

I will obey thy voice, and wait to see

Thy feet all beautiful upon the mountains.

Hear, Shepherd! thou who for thy flock art dying,

Oh, wash away these scarlet sins, for thou

Rejoicest at the contrite sinner’s vow.

Oh, wait! to thee my weary soul is crying,

Wait for me! Yet why ask it, when I see,

With feet nailed to the cross, thou’rt waiting still for me!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Firstly, in a really contrary spirit to today’s festivities, I want to get you a bit up to speed on Nightmares in Dissertation Writing. Today featured Episode II: The Research Proposal which is due tomorrow. The actual process of writing the proposal hasn’t been horrible (though I’m a touch scared that I’ve messed up the formatting, can’t imagine it being a huge issue at this stage). The main problem is that I’m a disaster.

Soy un desastre.

I don’t know what it is. Well, I kind of do. But. Throughout my academic career, I’ve been a pretty good student. I’ve been mostly committed to school, enjoyed learning, and done all my work. In college, my method for dealing with procrastination (to which I often fall victim) was to simply assign myself earlier deadlines. I could procrastinate all I wanted, but to an earlier date so that, if things got really bad, I would still have an extra week or so to finish. In grad school, that hasn’t worked for me. I’ve driven myself insane looking at a blank Word document (actually, I usually at least head it) and trying to will myself to write and watching Netflix instead. Or whatever the distraction of the moment is. It’s been kind of the worst. I won’t deny that I’m currently working on this post as a means of procrastinating. Ugh. I will finish in time and it will be fine. But it will be fine once I’ve finished, until then, it’s fear and self-loathing in Stoneybatter.

I don’t want to talk loads about my topic because a) you guys probs won’t actually care that much b) it’s sort of complicated and c) I’m better at explaining it in person (hopefully that will change by the time I hand in my dissertation). But for now, at least, I’ll give you a preliminary title.

Portrayals of Autochthonous Language Minorities in Norway: Sami and Nynorsk.

And if that doesn’t turn you onto sociology, nothing will. Isn’t autochthonous an awesome word? So glad I found it. It makes me feel like I’m actually earning a Master of Philosophy degree. Only Masters of Philosophy would use such a word as autochthonous.

Anyway, in the realm of things that you actually care about: St Patrick’s Day! Sorry to disappoint (slash not really disappointing if no one was expecting anything else from me) but I’m super lame and will not be participating in any shenanigans in honor of the religious holiday during Lent. Which, when I realized that St Patrick’s Day was during Lent, I giggled. Apparently it’s a day off, because that’s a thing, yeah? If it makes you feel better, I am wearing green.

Also, a bit of history for you, celebrating today like we think of celebrating it (at least, we Americans) is actually an American thing. No one here eats corned beef and cabbage–like, ever, not just today–and the whole crazy parades and everything is largely a product of the Irish diaspora in the US which was then exported back to Ireland a few decades ago. Previously in Ireland, it was mainly commemorated by a grim (I imagine) military parade because religion=politics because Ireland. Though in all fairness, religion is pretty political everywhere, whether you like it or not.

And I cannot give you a phonetic pronunciation of this week’s title because I don’t know how it’s pronounced. I do know Patrick, which is Paw-drig, but your guess is as good as mine for fhéile. I think la is pretty straightforward. I’d probably go for Fey-luh. If you know, please comment and enlighten us all.

So, sorry about my super boring life. But, um, lame and proud? Anyway, great things in the coming week or so. Next Wednesday and Thursday are the Choral Society concerts, Elijah if you recall. Super pumped, it’s just such a great piece. Then, it’s Good Friday and Easter and a whole thing about this particular Easter in this particular place…. but that last is a subject for another post. Suffice to say, things are happening. I have loads of work. The term is almost over. How did we get here. It’s almost April which is almost summer which is almost the rest of my life. What.

I think that about covers it for this week. Work, I’m lame, more work, holidays, Ireland things. Until next week, I guess.

 

 

Be Silly–Everyone Else Is

Ta-da, back in the Ireland. I’ve always thought that countries we refer to with ‘the’ (excluding word-countries like the US and the UK) are super cool. I feel like most of them in English have sort of gone out of common usage, but I still like to say the Ukraine and the Sudan. In German, I know that it’s the Switzerland (die Schweitz). Russian, of course, doesn’t have any articles, so it can’t do that. But I don’t know, I think it sounds cool. Some are pretty silly I guess (the Canada, the China) but I do really like the Ireland. The Morocco. The Azerbaijan. There you have it.

I miss my cats terribly. Also human people, you know, but cats.

Anyway, here I am. After saying my farewells, I hopped back on a plane and flew back on Sunday and arrived on Monday. I’ve done basically nothing since then. The first few days were pretty rough. I’m not normally super effected by jet lag, but I had it something fierce this time. I think I’ve gotten over it at this point, now it’s just laziness. But I’m determined to go to a museum tomorrow. There’s one quite close to my house and, as a baby step in going back to actually doing things with my life, I think it’s ideally suited. You all can check to make sure–if I don’t mention The National Museum of Decorative Arts and History in next week’s post, I give you permission to…say something to me. The website makes it sound pretty intriguing, if a touch eclectic: “Discover weaponry, furniture, silver, ceramics, glassware, Asian art and the Asgard, as well as folklife and costume artefacts.” So look forward to that, sounds like it’ll be fun. Not sure what The Asgard is, wondering if it’s any different from Asgard (no article) of Norse mythology.

Right, school’s starting again this coming week, so that’s something that will be nice in terms of learning (which I honestly do enjoy), seeing people, and having a bit of schedule in my life. At the same time, it’s school, so it’s lame. This term, I’m taking six classes again, meeting Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Race and Ethnicity: Theoretical Concepts (Episode II); Colonialism, Conflict, and Liberal Intervention (Episode II); Research Methods (Episode II); Labour, Migration, and Conflict; Contemporary Sources of Conflict; and Migration and Education in Europe and North America. Joy of joys, more Research Methods! Though that one will have a different professor and I understand it to run very differently from the first term, so we’ll see. One way or another it will be related to writing the dissertation, so I can’t imagine it being a fountain of pleasure, but hopefully it will be a bit nicer than last term. I’m really excited for the education one because I think that’s where I’m drifting in terms of career and post-graduation plans. It’s going to be a crazy ride, one way or another.

Which brings me to my title for this week. It sort of just came to me as I sat down to write, and it fits a bit in with other things I’ve been thinking about. You often hear that you’re supposed to be yourself. One of my favorite quotations (no idea where from) is to be yourself because everyone else is taken. People have often praised me for being myself and not caring what other people think about me. This is not entirely true, of course, as I am not always who I am and I do care too much for other people’s impressions of me. However, I think something that I have been gifted with is the ability to be very silly. Now silliness is seen by different people in different ways (as things often are) but I often behave in ways that adhere to the mainstream definition of the word silly. My point, though, is that everyone is silly because we’re all different but we also share many things in common with any variety of other people. So it’s not always necessarily about being different from others that makes you yourself. Sometimes the things that link us to others are what make us the most unique. For example, I’m really into cats (surprise!). This has sort of become a mainstream bit of craziness–we all know crazy cat people. But we’re not all the same because we’re crazy cat people, we’re just brought together by our fearless manifestation of silliness (though obviously loving cats isn’t silly in the slightest).

Not really sure that any of that was intelligible, but it all makes sense to me. Which just proves my point. Don’t be afraid to be silly. I think people who like football are silly, and people who like football often think I’m silly for it. I think investment bankers are silly because they’re like the epitome of not-silly, and they likewise think I’m silly for the precise opposite reason. Like I’ve said in another post, we’re all maniacs down here on Earth. Who knows what any alien races might think of us, should they observe our collective silliness.

But who cares?

Titles Are Hard

So here it is– blog post #1. You know what they say, the first is always the hardest. But here goes.

First, regarding my domain, I was going to go for just “Something Witty,” but, surprise, that was taken. So why not include cats because, really, cats cats cats cats cats.

Second, regarding the purpose of this blog: a sort of newsletter meets journal plus some cats. As a freshly minted 21 year old moving across a continent and an ocean, I thought starting a blog would be a convenient way to appease my parental units’ need to know what I’m up to. Plus, you’ll probably get some cool stories and pictures from Ireland. So that’s neat.

Third, just a bit to get started on the “keeping up with Keegan” thing. Surprise, I’m going to be studying at Trinity College Dublin starting this September. My program is called Race, Ethnicity, and Conflict (probably REC for the remainder of this blog). It is a twelve month MPhil program, which means I will (hopefully) be submitting my thesis at the end of August 2016 and will then be a master of philosophy which, let’s face it, is way cooler than being a master of basically anything else. I am in charge of my own accommodation and will hopefully have a place to live before I fly out but I might be staying in a hostel or something first while I look around in person.

Finally, a few warnings. When I say that there will probably be some cat pictures, I’m deadly serious. I take cats very seriously. I’m really into fun facts (the nice way of saying “tangents”) and will be inflicting those on you liberally, I’m sure. This may make my writing a little scattered (and by “may,” I mean “definitely will”). I’m also really into parenthetical asides (you may have noticed). I also really love/hate the Russian language and kind of talk about it a lot. If any of these things really bother you, you can pretend this blog is a reading for school– read the first and last paragraphs (initial sentences in between if you’re in a good mood) and hope nobody asks you for detailed content. Just kidding, I totally do all the assigned readings (just not the recommended ones).

Anyway, this is the place to be keeping up with me. Hobey ho let’s go.