Pub life in Ireland: the agony and the ecstasy: a Celtic rose with thorns
excerpted from OM, baby! a pilgrimage to the eternal self, by Jack Haas
It could be argued that pub life in Ireland is life as it is meant to be. All other outward actions and events are but interludes or preliminary measures which must unfortunately be undertaken so as to sustain a life which then has the privilege to enter the pub and be fulfilled. For it is here, in the Irish pub, that the spirit and soul, the heart and the mind, the guts and the gonads, the viscera and the vulvas, are all welcome and exercised. It is here that merriment is exalted as the divine characteristic which it truly is. It is here that camaraderie and community, as well as introspection and isolation are noncontradictory events in the holistic panorama of humanity. It is here, on the westernmost outpost of the occidental drama, that humanity has finally arrived at the zenith of its groaning, microcosmic loneliness, and then turned that loneliness into brotherhood and song.
In the past I had revived my spirit many times in Irish pubs, and had been regularly uplifted and transported into ecstasy and enchantment by the goings on therein. However, before spending my voice on overzealous paeans, I regretfully exclaim that, as one who is incorrigibly dissatisfied with the imperfections of humanity’s efforts, I have found there to be a large thorn growing chronically out of the Celtic rose that is Irish pub life; it is a thorn which has poked and prodded me and let my psychic blood out onto the stone floor of not a few said establishments; it is a thorn which invites disquiet into the seemingly harmonious goings-on within the fervor of the pub, for in the midst of such music and merry-making …there is no dancing. That is the thorn. For where there is no dancing, there is no heart. And where there is no heart there is only mind. And where there is only mind the cold grimace of stasis and objectivity spill out through the wailing fissures of death and cremate the soul.
Anyone who has sat in on traditional Irish music sessions might encounter the same pain of being elevated ecstatically by such uplifting, soul-grabbing music, amidst a throng of others who are feeling the same inspiring pulse, and yet not a single person is dancing. There is no dancing in Irish pubs. It is unbelievable. A cultural catastrophe. How an entire country, so blessed with the gift and heart for music, can separate their bodies from the exalted rhythm, is beyond me. It is infuriating. To listen to inspired music is one thing, but to dance to it is another enterprise altogether. Listening is of the spirit, but dancing is of the soul. To listen to music is to become elevated by the music, but to dance to music is to become the music.
No matter. There are those of us who, having been lifted into the empyrean vibration of the Celtic riff, eventually cannot, or will not, remain still.
I had sat through countless, indescribably penetrating music sessions in the past, and I had convivially repressed the thump and shimmer I felt in my legs and feet, so as to prevent them from taking off with my body and plunging me forth into an unproprietous pagan dance. However, there came a time when I found myself powerless to withhold the rushing force of glory from overtaking me.
It came on a night perhaps two weeks after my soror and I had arrived on the Dingle. As per usual, in the evening we had made our way into one of the town’s establishments, had put back a few pints of the dark and delicious tincture, and then had eased comfortably into the ensuing auditory rapture, as a music session began.
But this night was not like other nights. This was a night when the stultifying chains which the entire Irish culture had bound itself within, and by which I had allowed myself to be held as well, suddenly lost all power of constriction and ability to contain, and I found myself lost to the freedom of the soul that knows no law nor reason nor propriety which might prevent that soul from its truest and most desperate expression.
Bullocks to the letter that killeth. I say: when in Rome forget the Romans and do as thou pleaseth.
by Jack Haas