Professional Tourist: the Dublin chapter.

Today I fell in love. After a week in Dublin,  I have finally found an affection for Jonathan Swift. I always knew I liked him based on a few satires that I had read, but I never knew exactly how remarkable he was. If he hadn’t been dead for nearly 300 years I would consider making a move.  Let me explain…

With a new perspective I decided to tackle Dublin on my own today and revel in the fact that I could do exactly what I wanted–no one to drag me down! I had things I wanted to see and do and it felt like a great privilege to be able to do them at exactly my own pace.  So after an Americano (I’m not sure I can ever go back to drip coffee), I headed out to walk what ended up feeling like a million miles around the city.  My first stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I had low expectations after I had already attend a choral evensong service at Dublin’s most famous cathedral, Christ Church. As it turns out this may have been my favorite stop. I’m not entirely sure why, as it was like going into any other Cathedral in Western Europe (epitaphs, busts, commemorations, and don’t forget the gift shop). It even took me a good 15 minutes before I realized that it wasn’t even a Catholic Cathedral at all, but rather the Church of Ireland (Anglican)–just like the famous Christ Church Cathedral.

When I entered I felt immediately at peace and reverence – something I have not felt in too long. I made my way to the little chapel at the front where I lit a candle for my family and took a moment to just be. With pain I realized for the first time that I had not brought even a single piece of spiritual literature with me on this trip.  Here I’ve been calling myself a pilgrim when I am no more than a typical tourist!!  I had meant to bring Joel Mason’s booklet on pilgrimage that he wrote for SSU, but of course, I totally forgot it.   I am extremely ashamed that it took me over a week to realize this.  But my moment in St. Patrick’s may have been what my academic advisor, Dr. Gregg Finley, would call a “thin place” (a place of genuine personal connection between the heavens and the earth) –it was brief but enough to remind me why I am here.

I continued about the Cathedral until I came to the display on my dear Jonathan Swift, who was Dean there during the early 18th Century.  There I read about his life as, what modern lingo would call, an activist. He used his political and literary gifts to battle injustice in Ireland—from building a proper hospital for the mentally ill (who were often put on display before the public) and raising money for destitute elderly women, to single handedly preventing the English government from infecting Ireland with a debased currency which would have ruined the already fragile economy.  I know I want to read more about this man, more of his works, and hopefully squeeze him into my thesis somehow.  I think my point of infatuation came when I read a quote of his saying: “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” (Thoughts on Various Subjects).  I am afraid not much has changed since.  In reflection i wonder if we have simple exchanged one conflict for another: protestant vs cathoic; muslim vs christian; secular vs. sacred. Sadly, we have not learned from our past in this regard.

After my visit to St. Patrick’s I carried on through the courtyards of Dublin Castle to the Chester Beatty Library.  This library houses some of the oldest written works existing today including their oldest piece, dated about 2700 BC, which, hilariously, is a very erotic love poem that is so explicit, the translation is not released to the general public– including the librarians themselves!  Perhaps some things don’t change?

But among the library’s collections they have some of the oldest known pieces of the gospels on papyrus, dated about 250 A.D.  It was a worthwhile visit, learning all sorts of things not only about Western manuscripts but also Middle Eastern and Eastern religions, as well as many secular books (Marie Antoinette’s personal collection). This isn’t even to mention a great overview of the history of the book itself which I found pretty fascinating actually (and built on my previous intro to book making video at the book of Kells). It’s o.k., you can call me a geek.

After the library I carried on to what I had been anticipating since a taxi driver told me it was by far the best tourist attraction in Dublin—the Kilmainham Gaol. This is one of the largest prisons in Europe and key to Irish political history. The tour was amazing and gives a great overview of the 1916 Rising and other rebellions leading up to Ireland’s independence from Britain.  The tour guide did an excellent job of adding a human component with the story of political prisoner Joseph Plummett, who married his sweat heart in the jail’s chapel just a day before he was executed for being a rebel leader. I’ll admit i choked back a tear or two as the guide told of how Grace Plummett waited all night only to hear the final execution shots ring out to tell her that her husband was dead. It is said the execution of these leaders was the key component in declaring Ireland a free state.  The tour also gave a great overview of the philosophy of criminal reform that was prevalent during the Victorian era in Western Europe, of which Kilmainham Gaol was a leader.

All of this amounted to about 7 hours on my feet and although I was initially planning to do one more stop (The National Library), I just couldn’t do it.  I plan to have a few more days in Dublin throughout my trip so I can see what I missed then, including the Guinness Storehouse and the Writer’s Museum (more intriguing to me now that I am in love with Jonathan Swift). And in case you are worried, this has been just one of my days here. I have already viewed the Book of Kells (first stop!), Trinity College’s Old Library (a huge library of books only dated before 1850), the National Art Gallery (Jack Yeats and Henry Clark steal the show), Christ Church Cathedral, and have experience several pubs  (and am currently sitting in one as I write, nursing a pint of Bulmers). However, for now, I am happy to leave the bustle of a very touristy city for some 5 star camping near the town of Kilkenny (a cottage in the country).

With Love…


4 Responses to “Professional Tourist: the Dublin chapter.”

  1. 1 HeidiRenee July 16, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I remember when we were on a family vacation when the kids were little and we got to a really nice hotel we had splurged on and I said “Yeah! time to be tourists” Jacob, probably about six years old, looked at me with shock and said “Mom, nobody likes tourists, can’t we be travelers?” I don’t think you could ever be a tourist Shelley – you’re too grounded to ever be a tourist! So glad for the thin space. Enjoy the rest of your trip. Let me know if you hear back on Ikon.

  2. 2 Lindsay July 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Oh how I wish I were there! I love reading these blog posts, keep them coming. Lots of love.

  3. 3 brianmpei July 19, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Very cool. Make the most, squeeze every day ’til it’s empty!

  4. 4 becks August 4, 2009 at 1:11 am

    I love when you post. I feel like pulling out a nice tall glass of ice water and just enjoying your day. Thank you so much for sharing Shell, this made my day.

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