Ireland Trip: 6–Dublin; Paul and Carly’s Soundtrack

Live in the moment! Many, such as fellow Canadian Eckhart Tolle, remind us that our tendency to dwell too much either in the past or the future is to our detriment, depriving us of the one thing in our lives that is real, namely the present.

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” ― Eckhart Tolle

How easy it is to fall into thoughts of the past, pining for what we remember as the good old days—simpler times when freedom was the norm and when the worries of the day simply did not exist! But then again, memory can be such a great trickster, revealing only the bits that jive with our idealized past and hiding the parts that are inconvenient; not in-keeping with our chosen narrative. The bad parts: all but forgotten, and rightly so, in most respects. After all, what’s to be gained from dwelling on suffering and loss? Why nurse old grudges? Those sentiments affect nobody except you, and not in a good way.

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But you cannot move ahead when you refuse to take your eyes off the rear-view mirror.

So, too, with the future; what a blinded existence some live, focused only on what’s to come! The career comes first. Never mind those they exploit along the way; merely obstacles or means to an end.  Got to get to the top: wear the right clothes, say the right things, associate only with those who will boost them along that trajectory.

But… the destination always changes; one horizon melts to the next, and then the next… All the while they miss the ride entirely—until fate eventually intervenes and it all comes to an abrupt end leaving so many marooned, no friends and devoid of life’s meaning.

So much for the past and the present exclusively! What of “living in present?” No reflection on previous encounters, on lessons learned—sometimes through bitter experience? And just the future—no overall plan; no sense of direction? What an utterly aimless, self-serving but ultimately useless existence!

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But perhaps that’s not exactly what people should mean when they exhort the “living in the present” mantra, is it? Maybe, instead, it’s the sense that what we are is the product of both the past and the future and that no matter where we find ourselves, yes, we need to be THERE but aware of the context that surrounds us; the choices we have made, and most importantly respectful of those with whom we share this place and time.

———-

It seems my life has a sound track. I wake most mornings with a song in my mind and, even in the quietest of moments there’s always something. Maybe just a melody, the words barely coherent but always a stirring, evocative of over-riding thoughts or of generalized feelings that serve as a backdrop for experience. Sometimes it’s a tune that’s being played by those around me, captured, perhaps, by some immediate hook to my present state of mind. Sometimes it’s an annoying ear-worm; a piece I utterly detest; one that serves as an omnipresent annoyance—itself an appropriate accompaniment to a generally unpleasant period of time.

Frequently, though, it’s one that has crossed the barrier from merely being liked to being a part of the mosaic that is my own existence; something that transcends “music” to being whatever is the musical equivalent of “literature.”

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This time around it was “The Boxer” and not just any version but the one done live by Simon and Garfunkel in Central Park way back I 1981. It’s flawed. Art miscues on the second line of the lyric; starts early…stops. Paul looks over and the two exchanges that gentle smiling glance that only comes from those used to working together; used to forgiveness for imperfection, “It’s okay, we’ll continue on…” So appropriate, so like real life. It also contains the “missing” verse; the one written originally but not included, for whatever reason, on the original studio recording. I don’t know why. I love the whole verse; year after year it becomes more and more a part of my whole being.

Now the years are rolling by me
 They are rockin' evenly
 I am older than I once was
 And younger than I'll be; that's not unusual.
 Nor is it strange
 After changes upon changes
 We are more or less the same
 After changes we are more or less the same   --Paul Simon, The Boxer

———-

The Zoo; I always heard it referred to as “Thee Azoo” since that’s the way it was pronounced by my Irish family. No visit to Ireland was ever complete without a visit and this one would be no different. We got there on the second-last day of our trip this past summer. Rain was forecast for the whole day so we brought raincoats and umbrellas—my second one for the trip since I’d absent-mindedly left mine in a taxi in Cork.

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We took the LUAS to O’Connel Street and from there got on the Bus to Phoenix Park. It stopped just outside the big white gates and we went in. Part of me was a kid again, only a part.

As a child the sight of the exotic animals was a never-ending source of delight. Excitedly I would go from section to section chattering away. My poor mother and Aunt Annie—what they must have had to put up with! Even my Grando would chuckle, “Will he ever shut up!”

“Shutt tup! Shutt tup!” my big sister would tease, always good-heartedly, though.

The pony rides were the best of all.

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But now as an adult there is always that sense of guilt that follows from seeing the bigger picture. The Phoenix Park, in which the zoo is located, got its start as a hunting park, a place for killing animals, at the pleasure of the king. What’s more it’s likely that the original impetus to create the zoo came from physicians, not so much as eager to study the exotic fauna in situ as they were to examine the cadavers, legally obtained once they’d expired—again a place where death, not life, may have been the primary focus.  Besides, they’re all still penned up—a small irony perhaps in a place so aware of the brutal fact that for much of its history, as far as humans were concerned, “Only Our Rivers Run Free.”

Zebras--Lesley's favourite. Do you think the three at the right are trying to tell us all something? Yes, the pictures above are all from the Zoo too. I was absolutely struck by the flora of the pace.

Zebras–Lesley’s favourite. Do you think the three at the right are trying to tell us all something? Yes, the pictures above are all from the Zoo too. I was absolutely struck by the flora of the pace.

But then… The zoo today focuses its efforts on education and on conservation, especially towards the protection of endangered species. The habitats are spacious and well maintained and everywhere there’s evidence that the creatures that dwell there are well cared for.

So good on paper; So romantic; But so bewildering --Carly Simon

As we wandered through the gardens, spending a pleasant three or four hours amid the company of others, the overall air was one of peace and joy. The children reminded me of how I, too, felt so many years ago on the many occasions we visited the place. The staff—all of them—carried themselves with that mixed air of professionalism and contentment one generally encounters at places where what happens there could be best described as “Good Work.”

The Alpha, cared for and well-fed, taking his customary mid-day rest. Did he care for freedom?

The Alpha, cared for and well-fed, taking his customary mid-day rest. Did he care for freedom?

Still… All the while I wandered through the beautiful setting, I was reminded of the many times in which we, as a people, have found ways to defend our exploitation of others as “stewardship.” Back at home, for example, we constantly hear of calls to “remove the threat of moose-vehicle accidents” a euphemism which, for many, involves completely eliminating the local population. Kill them all; our safety is what matters most. I cringe at the thought, unable to see the justice. From whence comes the right to drive a population to extinction? Not a universal sentiment; acknowledged. There are many whose livelihoods depend upon safe passage on our highways; many more who have suffered grievous loss as the toll of highway deaths continues to mount. Is that a just solution, though? Again, I digress…

———-

I did not chatter this time. Yes, I still have my moments—ask my colleagues—but these days I’m more prone to introspection at times like these. We three did wander through the whole place and finally found ourselves back at the entrance just as the rain began to fall in earnest. We went in to the gift store, as much to duck a heavy shower as to get some little token of our visit. Lesley picked out a stuffed zebra and we named it Azoo (you figure out where the name came from—there’s a hint in the text, midway through the post). Umbrellas up, we made our way through the rain back to the bus stop.

The Dublin Spire on a rainy evening. Nicknamed the "stiffie by the Liffy" or the "stiletto i the ghetto" I see it as a defiant middle-finger-up salute to harder times.

O’Connell Street, the Dublin Spire on a rainy evening in August. Nicknamed the “stiffie by the Liffy” or the “stiletto in the ghetto” I see it as a defiant middle-finger-up salute to harder times.

The remainder of the day was spent back at O’Connell  street for a few last-minute souvenirs and a quick stop off for one more round at the pub, then, finally back on the LUAS for the night.

The LUAS was quite full for the way back. Here, the weekend was over and for us, so too, was the vacation.

The LUAS was quite full for the way back. Here, the weekend was over and for us, so too, was the vacation.

All in all a pleasant way to finish off a long-anticipated return. We came around once more and likely will again.

The next day we had an early return. Home.

———-

And still the soundtrack; for the past few days I’ve been awakened to Carly Simon’s voice. I know what you’re thinking, “You’re so Vain,” Right? Very Funny. No, this time its “Coming Around Again.” I bought the album—yes vinyl—way back in ’87 and, like the Boxer’s missing verse the sentiment seems to become increasingly cemented into what I am.

I know nothing stays the same
 But if you're willing to play the game
 It's coming around again   --Carly Simon “Coming Around Again”
"On with the dance. Let Joy be Unconfined" --Byron. As on the eve of the Waterloo, who knows what's ahead? We can, though, meet our futures gracefully by keeping all three--past, present and future--in balance

“On with the dance. Let Joy be Unconfined” –Byron. As on the eve of the Waterloo, who knows what’s ahead? We can, though, meet our futures gracefully by keeping all three–past, present and future–in balance

The visit to “Thee Azoo” was just another reflection of that, or perhaps just the retelling. Who cares; on with the dance.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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21 Responses to Ireland Trip: 6–Dublin; Paul and Carly’s Soundtrack

  1. Once again, you point out that life is too complex to boil down to a slogan. But, I persist in doing so. Because as I was reading I kept thinking “yes, all things in moderation,” and I grabbed right on to, “Let Joy be Unconfined!”

    Thanks for pointing out that “living in the present,” when lived fanatically, is just like every other kind of fanaticism. Nicely done!

  2. SJ O'Hart says:

    You could have stayed on the Luas, if you took it to O’Connell Street, and it would have brought you to within 5 minutes of the entrance to the Phoenix Park. But that hardly matters now. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed ‘Thee Azoo’ and that Lesley got a souvenir of the trip.

    And, as always, I’ve learned a lot about life through reading your words, and I’m left in no doubt why we connected, over the miles, through our shared philosophies.

  3. Tiny says:

    I have read your post a couple of times, and truly enjoyed it! Would need another post to comment on all the associations this post brought to mind, but here’s a small selection. I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on the concept of living in the now. I agree with the notion that the present moment is all we have, and that we should be “there” to make the most of it. But, as you also say, that doesn’t mean that we should never visit the past to appreciate how we became what we are, and never plan for the future. I think it simply means we shouldn’t be so preoccupied by reliving the past (useless) or living in the future that the don’t have yet (equally useless) that the present moment where we can actually act, slips by “unlived”. If that makes sense?
    Also, I have mixed feelings about zoos, but agree that if they are well kept, geared towards education, preservation and primarily house animals that would not have made it in the wild (orphans, for example), they have a place in our cities. They can give children an appreciation of the wild, which they would not get by just watching TV.
    And lastly, the images were lovely!

    • Agreed–the thing is to focus on what it is we are doing so that we can fully be “there.” sometimes that means letting go of past and future exclusively but, most times, our past and future serve as reliable gateposts; contexts; guides so we’d best be mindful of them to the extent that we can.

  4. elkement says:

    Stream-of-consciousness-writing at its best!

    The images at the top look like as if taken right of of Jurassic Park’s marketing broschure – I had expected some dinosaurs! Or was it your musings on past and future that made me think about prehistoric eras?

    I also like Simon and Garfunkel, I once knew The Boxer nearly by heart. My favorites were Sound of Silence and Scarborough Fair though.

    • I kept looking for the dinosaurs but they kept hiding behind the unicorns 🙂
      I was thoroughly impressed with the extent to which the zoo had recreated appropriate habitats for the “guests.” not only had they done it in a way that was clearly functional, but also–and I’d leave it to the Irish to have style–they did it in a way that celebrated the beauty, the essence of the native habitats.

  5. Terrific, really terrific. I think, whether people want to admit it or not, you’re really channeling all of us. Who could deny the truisms which you illuminate in your preamble. Anyone who denies the importance of living in the present, while mindful of both the past and the future, is delusional. We all know it’s true and important, but few of us have the strength to live life the way you have described. I am perhaps one of the most guilty, holding tenaciously onto what has transpired (mostly at work) days, weeks, and even months before. A very bad habit and only leads to worry and to stress. And, given recent reports about the influence of stress in our lives, this tendency is perhaps shortening my life. Nice vision, clearly expressed. Wonderful reading. You must have carried out a Vulcan Mind Meld this morning for your comments on humans and their influences on other species is the very topic of the post I am working on at the moment. To end I will simply add that if you were ever to write your magnum opus and entitle it, ‘The World According to Maurice,’ it would be a most valuable text indeed. D

    • Perhaps it would be a book best written by a team 🙂 I know a few good members.
      Thanks, Dave. WHEW! What a busy fall it’s been. My favourite time of the year also happens to be the one when I tend to be most active–no doubt an inter-related phenomenon. This morning, though, while just enjoying a rate quiet 15 minutes between events I’m looking out my window at the hills across campus and am noticing the blazing colours marching across. What a great time to be around!

  6. Maurice such a beautiful post, your words flowed across the page like a steady stream. The reminder to live NOW is a good one that we silly humans forget to do. Dublin is a special city. I loved the song words by Paul Simon too. Your photo’s made the whole piece come together.

    • Thank you. Sometimes I have to work on the pieces and sometimes I sit at the keyboard and the words seem to write themselves. On the subject of Simon and Garfunkel I do recall Paul saying that that’s how he felt about ‘The Sounds of silence.” he’d been struggling to write a piece on peoples’ inability to communicate for months and then, one evening, the whole thing just sort of scripted itself in the space of around 20 minutes. That state of mind is one that we all aspire to 🙂

  7. jennypellett says:

    Your trip to Ireland has turned you all philosophical! But I read your words with interest and a little catch in my heart, for as we age we often look back to memories that aren’t quite there – they’ve melded with time and there maybe regret for things not done, things not said – but you are absolutely spot on when you say that fixing one’s gaze in the rear view mirror prevents onward travel. What’s done is done; we are shaped. Best to get on with what lies in store using the tools we’ve picked up along the way.
    Great post and pictures, as usual, you’ve made me think. 🙂

    • Thank you. Now, regardless of whether it made me philosophical, my friends would beg to differ about whether going on and on is anything new. Generally it just takes an interesting topic and/or a nice pint of ale 🙂

  8. johnlmalone says:

    I’m also uneasy about zoos but acknowledge thay are great places to visit. My son and his wife and their son came over recently from Vienna and we spent many enjoyable hours at the Adelaide zoo. The animals seemed happy and well cared for so that was good. Zoos are problematic places. It is hard to imagine a world without them — and yet up until this century many circuses had animal acts

  9. Mary says:

    Had to read this a few times this week …so many memories..although I will say as yer big sis I never remember telling you to shutt up:) differing memories again…but most def do remember our mother saying that you must have been vaccinated with a gramaphone needle!;)
    Most really good educators I’ve encountered are amazingingly articulate; truly blessed with the gift of the gab like you,so that gramaphone needle was a good thing.
    Really enjoyed the photos especially the one of Lesley and the zebra and hearing about her new zebra called Azoo:)
    Like you , I also have conflicted feelings about zoos and out here there is a debate about Cetacean animals in captivity at the aquarium…. I guess if they are injured or cannot live in the wild or the ocean any longer it is OK but otherwise …free ….

    • Ha ha–“Shutt tupp” was said often, and generally with good reason. I’d forgotten bout the gramophone needle but now recall the many MANY times I was reminded.
      …again with good reason. Oh well…

  10. Mary says:

    Forgot to say enjoyed the family enjoying the dance in the final photo ..very much mirrors yourself Josephine and lesley

  11. I enjoyed this, once again. Reading it after listening to Bessel van der Kolk speaking On Being, I am reminded of how music connects mind and body, and can be an important part of the process of healing and growth. The other discussion you shared, on happiness, also reminds us of how music is part of the celebration, the blessing that follows hardship or difficulty. After your travels through the past it is powerful to end with music. Another beautiful meditation, Maurice.

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