Diane Stranz on American Life

In Praise of Things Irish

Soundtrack:  Wolfstone, Tall Ships (from Pick of the Litter: The Best of Wolfstone); Joe Burke/Michael Cooney/Terry Corcoran, The Bells of Tipperary/Miss Galvan’s (from Piping Hot:  Celtic Bagpipe Collection); Altan, Mo Choill and Cherish the Ladies, Roisin Dubh (from There Was A Lady:  The Voice of Celtic Women)

. . . in honor of St. Paddy’s Day and the Old Tipperary Inn, lower Greenville Avenue . . .

I am primarily German from my father’s side of the family and Louisiana Cajun from my mother’s side . . . but somewhere in there I just HAVE to be an itty, bitty, tiny bit Irish or life would even be more unfair than it already is (and we all know how unfair THAT is!)   When you are living true to yourself, Creation assists you on that path by providing ‘meaningful coincidences’  and I have noticed a pattern of meaningful things taking place in my life on St. Patrick’s Day . . . and I know that is no accident, and serves as a reminder that St. Patrick’s Day is actually a holiday WORTH observing (some clearly aren’t . . . especially if they were created by Hallmark).

This past St. Patrick’s Day I attended the Texas premiere of American Violet in Hearne, Texas (www.americanviolet.com — it opens April 17) and spent the day with a good friend I hadn’t seen in 23 years.  It was a day which will clearly be one of the best I have this year, and beats ANY day I had last year! (smile) (Friday the 13th’s are always great days for me as well . . . but that’s a different blog post).

I am positive that Eden and ‘the Fall’ existed and happened in some dimension of existence beyond the 4D capabilities of earthly reality, as all myth and metaphor so exist per Carl Jung (FYI:  physicists have scientifically verified 40 dimensions, have evidence of 100 more and suspect the actual number is infinite) . . . BUT!  If I had to guess where on earth is closest in spiritual and physical reality to Eden, I just have to think it is Ireland.

First of all, Saint Patrick is no ‘namby-pamby’ saint.  The man’s life was a genuine and true, hard-core, rugged adventure story, worthy of comparison to The Iliad or The Odyssey any day.  I mean, show me a real man who walked his walk instead of talking a talk, and you’ve got Saint Patrick.  He practically single-handedly brought civilization to the wildness of Ireland (I’m not a huge fan of civilization over wildness, but that’s just because now we live in civilization-overkill where any genuine wildness — be it spiritual, personal or in nature — is so rare it is practically an endangered species.  Such was obviously not the case in St. Patrick’s Day and time).

And because of St. Patrick, Irish monasteries existed at the time Rome fell — which was a saving grace for humanity’s future.  Not until Thomas Cahill published How The Irish Saved Civilization in the late 1990’s did the Irish gain widespread recognition for having literally saved the intellectual and artistic fruits of civilization from destruction by the Huns (and others) after the fall of Rome.  [This is a book highly worth a read, available at any decent library if you are too cheap and/or poor to buy it for yourself.]  So thank you Thomas Cahill.

And thank you Michael Flatley for introducing the world to Irish step-dancing.  Can you imagine how much we could cut down on juvenile delinquency if we had flourishing community centers where there was ALWAYS some sort of just-for-fun dancing going on?  I know I’D be there.  I never missed a school dance when I was in high school if I could help it, because dancing is just FLAT OUT FUN.  Religious groups who ban dancing are exacerbating the very problem they seek to avoid:  why would teenagers sneak off alone and unsupervised if they could, instead, be having a blast dancing pretty much any night of the week?  Talk about re-directing premature and as-of-yet-unfocused and random sexual energy!   Really, too many religious groups are their own worst enemy . . . there is a REASON why the ‘preacher’s kid’ is usually the wildest and most out-of-control kid around. 

Here’s a link to a YouTube video of the Connemara Irish dance group (all female): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHx4guRdniE&feature=related, and here a link to classic Michael Flatley, the Lord of the Dance:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytcZIfvSWW4&feature=related.  Flatley’s much older now, of course, but my sons and I happened upon him on TV last fall (a global dance program) and he still looked pretty good.  He also choreographed a guest stint on Dances with the Stars a few seasons back which was phenomenal.  Here’s the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YHCqwlFSHw.

The Irish brew some mean whiskey, they’ve proven to us that yes you CAN actually survive and thrive on a simple diet of almost nothing other than potatoes (if you don’t deep fry all the nutritional value out first) AND you do not even want get me started on how awesome I think bagpipe music is!  Love it, love it — oh give me a man who plays bagpipes and wears a cute little kilt to go with ’em (not all the time, but with bagpipes in hand?  Hell yeah).  If I didn’t think Mel Gibson was such a weirdo as a human being, I’d say ‘give me a peaceful version of Mel Gibson’s character in Braveheart‘ but . . . he lost my respect with that atrocious mock-Catholic movie he made a few years back, which shall go unnamed.  (To which you say, “Lord! Is it even POSSIBLE to devise a peaceful version of Mel Gibson’s character in Braveheart?” IDK!  But I can dream the impossible dream, can’t I?  It’s all good.) 

4/14/09 UpdateLet’s change that to Liam Neeson in Rob Roy, especially since the following dialogue from Rob Roy is SO ON POINT:  “Hey Rob:  ya know why Calvinists are against shagging standing up?”  “No, Carl, I do not.”  “The fear it might lead to dancing!”

Each song in today’s soundtrack is available through I-tunes, so AT LEAST go listen to the free teaser for each one, if nothing else.  They’re fabulous and there’s a wealth of fabulous Irish music just like it out there.  So quest!  And find it! 

Mo Choill reminds me of a quick story, then I’ll end.  In 1997, I was handwashing my hot red Mazda convertible on my landlady’s driveway one beautiful spring afternoon (yes, those were the heady days after my first divorce when I got in touch with my inner beatnik — sigh.  When I wasn’t holed up writing, I was driving my convertible or chatting with interesting strangers at the Whole Foods Cafe on lower Greenville in Dallas.  Not that I’d want to go back in time, but still.  Good memories).  So, I’m playing There was a Lady:  The Voice of Celtic Women on the car stereo, and Mo Choill comes on . . . and up walks my landlady’s “super christian” son-in-law (except when he relaxed and let his hair down, he was a really nice guy).  He exclaimed, “Wow!  Who IS that singing?  She sounds like an ANGEL!” 

I love sharing things I enjoy, so I was excited he liked the music.  I said, “She DOES doesn’t she?  This is off a Celtic women’s CD . . . ”  At which point he immediately looked horrified, backed away from me like I had the plague, and sputtered, “Oh, no:  all that Celtic stuff is the work of the devil!  You need to quit listening to that, Diane.”  Then he ran quickly into the house, I guess to avoid having his eardrums further seduced by the wicked, wicked music I was playing.  So of course I did what every good Christian should have done in the situation:  I protected that G-D CD like my life depended upon it so I’d have it around to play today while I wrote this blog post! 

Got to go pretend to be productive with my day.  Sorry this post is one week late:  I hope your St. Patrick’s Day was full of dancing and wicked, wicked music and beer and/or whiskey . . .  and the love of a good man or woman (your own, not someone else’s) (!!) (It IS possible to be moral AND fun, and by golly I intend to prove that!)