Triggered memories

September 2, 2009

I was pleased to find from a google alert that my recent posts on Go/Chess and Resilience/Robustness and saved me from being culled from the blog roll of From Bath to Cork with Baby Grace. Now I first found this blog through Head Rambles whose black sense of humour matches my own, although I gave up the pipe many years ago when my collection went up in flames on the A4 along with the car one morning. Memories of that near death experience stimulated me to scroll through past posts (Bath to Cork is now in my RSS feed) to discover this amazing story of service from Ryan Air without any hint that additional charges were made. I will be making the long trek to Stanstead for their flight to Milan (Orio al Serio) this Sunday. I was then led to an Irish political blog Maman Poulet which frustratingly does not have an RSS link. (A tweet produced the answer in a few minutes so the link is now made. My random walk then led me to this post with a wonderful quote from Blake.

What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song?

Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children,
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
And in the wither’d field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain.
(’Vala: Night the Second’)

Now I fell in love with Blake at University at New Grange back in the 70s. I was just getting involved in the Student Christian Movement (which as much political as it was religious) and was attending my first meeting north of Dublin. At that time the movement was still a British and Irish one, the 1920s hadn’t happened. One of my legacies as President some years later was to rectify that. Our magazine Movement had produced a special edition on Blake and his poetry was used in a meditative walk around probably the greatest Megalithic site in Europe. I’d read his poetry years before but it came alive that day. A confused set of memories from that week. Irritated (as a Catholic in a historically Protestant organisation) by being marched to the Battle of the Boyne, Bernard (subsequently my best man) and I organised an alternative pilgrimage to the preserved head of the then Blessed (now Saint) Oliver Plunkett, the last Catholic martyr in England, in nearby Drogheda.

That in turn triggered memories of interesting times in Rathmines over several years, the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation outside of Dublin. We organised several meetings there (once drowning flu with Guinness) including one memorable retreat with Fr. Dan Berrigan during the height of the Troubles. I also realised that my daughter is the first in four generations of my family to have reached the age of 20 without spending at least a night in a police cell as a result of protest Not sure if that means that things have got better, or that the agenda of the young has changed! That in turn triggered another memory of one of the great poems of all time by Robert Frost (and one of the most ambiguous) namely The Road Not Taken with which I will finish as it complements Blake.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could>/div>

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


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