There I stood at the entrance of Dun Aengus, a fort older than anything else I have ever had the privilege to see in person. Merely walking through the doorway felt enchanted, bewitching, as though I could clearly see the sturdy fortification that originally stood, instead of the remains I found today, well preserved but not quite complete. And as I walked through the little doorway into the fort, the strangest thought entered my mind: here I stand, in a room older than my religion (and than my God, in a strictly biological sense), yet in a nation younger than my favorite book.
My first thought was “Wow Casey, you need to stop basing your entire life on an Age of Innocence timeline,” but beyond that, I couldn’t help but notice upon some more reflection that this sentiment sums up quite a bit of my Irish experience. I’ve sang along to the Killers and Kodaline in two- and three-hundred-year-old pubs, strolled casually past some of the world’s oldest and most famous cathedrals as well as Dublinia on my way to an email marketing internship, and used free Wi-Fi on an island that didn’t even have electricity until my father was in middle school (1973). Both Dublin and Ireland in general have served as an almost inexplicable blend of the most ancient past and the most recent modernity since I’ve arrived—what other nation could have a 40% church attendance rate among Catholics but also be almost 80% in favor of same-sex marriage? Of course, this produces tension as well—just this week, we discussed the impossibility of bringing up abortion, despite the growing number of Irish in favor of legalizing it. Ireland seems somehow both old-fashioned and terribly contemporary, in ways that can be felt much more easily than vocalized.
Going to Galway was an amazing experience for several reasons—the sheer beauty that surrounded me, the exciting memories I made with my newfound friends, and the Claddagh ring I bought that will finally give me credit for being Irish-American when I return to the States—but standing in Dun Aengus was a spiritual experience for me, because only that spot gave me the clarity of mind to realize and actualize my thoughts on Ireland; Ireland connects me to the older possible past and most current possible present, and this only makes me eager to learn of every moment in-between.