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 identity cannot, I believe, be found at the bottom of any foam-ringed pint, nor may it be found in the all-too-commonly-evoked literary trinity of abusive father, alcoholic mother, and tuberculosis-inclined child. And despite the insistence of economists, both Irish and otherwise, it will not be found in the workings of a booming "Celtic Tiger" economy, with the (albeit historical) shift from a country of emigration to one of immigration.
Ireland has found its current definition under the auspicious flag of the Tourist Industry, a change that would likely make Yeats shudder, as his oft-valorized four green fields are first leveled, paved, and finally given new shape as the grounds for a shopping mall. South of the Lif...
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... boat ride, and I noticed an Italian couple sitting nearby, both neatly dressed, with lovely leather sandals and gold jewelry. At fast I wondered what they saw in their surroundings. They appeared quite comfortable. I looked around again. There was a certain beauty in the mix of rust and faded paint, the apparent lack of function, an atmosphere beyond something, if not the Pale itself. The feeling of exile that occurs as a result of traveling abroad is a unique form, self-imposed and wary of cliches. Remember that James Joyce was only able to write "The Dead" after leaving Dublin. Though I may not have returned with a brilliant novella of my own, this new sense of wonderment is, I believe, a nearly even trade.
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