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My Life Beyond The Pale Essay

958 words - 4 pages

My Life Beyond the Pale


"Beyond the pale" was a phrase first used by the English Crown of the 1300's to describe the Irish countryside outside of Dublin's borders, i.e., English control. Even before then, and since, the Irish have continually struggled to define for themselves a cohesive national identity outside of that which was determined for them by colonists, or perhaps nowadays, tourists like myself. Therefore, a cautionary note: this brief essay contains no deep, penetrating insights into the Irish psyche, no judgments as to the wisdom of constitutionalized Catholicism, World War II isolationism, or the perpetuation of Yeats-ish, green-rolling, fairy-mounded myths. Irish ...view middle of the document...


Despite all this I hesitate to characterize Ireland, or even Dublin, as offering an easy-to-swallow coating for any but its most oblivious tourists. There is something there so utterly un-American (not, I should note, anti-American. Unlike many of my friends in London, I never felt shy for my corn-fed, tooth-braced blondness) that it might not defy description, at least not for a better writer. It exists, for example, in words. Despite what appeared to me as the transparency of a shared language, my conversations with Irish acquaintances were at first hesitant, stilted, as though things were lost in translation. Dubliners embrace the shape of their language, how the lips and tongue combine for the drawn-out sounds of "brilliant", "super", and "fabulous". That such effusive words are used seemingly without care gives an indication, I think, as to the loveliness of nearly everyone I met. Hearing someone say "thanks a million" for a 70 p. cup of coffee was always slightly unexpected, and pleasurably so.


There is also a sense, beyond the crowds of black-suited business people with their ever-present lavender dress shirts, that one's job did not define one's life. I met numerous cabbies who, despite the fun in carting drunks home all evening, were quite aware of other dimensions within themselves, held jobs on their off hours as singers or part-time actors. I met teachers who made enough money during the semester to work on their short films for a few months each summer, bartenders who spoke animatedly of Harold Pinter. All seemed to prize themselves on a dark humor, as though they knew before anyone else of the Celtic Tigers eventual decline, and held a strange, Beckettian joy in human frailty.


Study abroad does not provide a pair of...

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