After the general confusion, and jet lag, and delicacies, and all the tiny yet somehow overwhelming differences of London, we went to Dublin, where I was finally and truly hit with that same tired, old realization that all Americans have upon traveling to Europe. This place is old. But also, like, new! Like, super new. This is sense of extreme juxtaposition old right across the river from new. There are old boat, new bridge, old stairs, new stairs, old security system, new security system, old obelisk, new obelisk. It seemed to me like two categories with a fine line between them, and I know to some people that will make me seem like some kind of barbarian, but if you were raised in a place where the oldest building was built in the 1950’s, you might lack some historical perspective, too, but then, as we traveled around, popping into every single bookshop to see if they had the fault in our stars.
Dublin started to teach us about itself, a cathedral that took so long to construct that Romanesque arches sit right next to Gothic arches. Two architectural styles as different and separated by as many years as this building and this one with a crypt underneath it predating both of those architectural styles, in fact, the oldest structure in Dublin, though with some decidedly new uses. In addition to having a museum, there’s also a gift shop, a coffee shop, and some toilets. But of course, Dublin’s history reaches back a lot further than that as we learned at Dublinia.
A celebration of Dublin’s founding as a Viking colony which I mention mostly, pooping Viking makes groaning sound of relief but then a little more robustly, I peeked into Ireland’s very long history at the National Museum of Archaeology, and suddenly, this intense cultural continuity came into a weird sort of focus for me, with these ax heads being carved 5,800 years before these broaches were molded, two centuries before Strongbow died, 400 years before this library was founded, 300 years before this primitive means of wired communication was invented.
1,600 years before this fossilized bog mummy died, 400 years before these other two bog mummies died, almost 2,000 years before this cat chased this rat into a pipe organ in Christ Church Cathedral, where they both together were also mummified, 300 years before this gutter was installed, 14 years before this event was crazy, and more than 1,200 years before the first Viking. We only have a concept of self because of our ability to symbolically recall our past and stitch together a story of who we are. In many ways, we are never the same physically or psychologically from instant to instant, it’s that continuity that makes us, us. That same thing could be said of a place, or of a culture, or even of a species. Yes, at any given moment, Dublin is a different city than it was the moment before, but while it at first looked like a city of juxtaposition, it became a continuum.
A continuum that was respected, and honored, and that reached back tens of thousands of years, and that I felt like I was a part of. Without that conscientiousness of our past, which is very easy not to have for those of us who live in towns that have barely existed for 100 years, it’s easy to forget that we’re not only living in this particular instant, but as part of a continuum, thousands, or tens of thousands, or even millions of years old and without that perspective, I think we might be a little bit culturally stunted. So basically, what I’m saying is watch Crash Course World History, and Vikings pooped, too.