Today, thanks to the joys of Skype, I had a long conversation with an old friend that I haven’t spoken to for well over a year. As soon as I saw his face and heard his voice my eyes filled with tears of joy and I was overwhelmed by emotion. We went to graduate school together in Chicago, were running partners and neighbours, and spent outrageous amounts of time at our local coffeeshop studying and working on papers. When we weren’t discussing philosophy, we covered everything from movies to muffins and of course our love lives! We saw each other through broken hearts and budding romances and are now both married to people we met during that period.
It was great to catch up with him and hear about his two young children, he and his wife’s exciting teaching careers and to talk philosophy! It reconnected me to a part of myself I don’t get to experience very much anymore- Dearbhla, the highly trained philosopher talking shop with another (even more) highly trained philosopher. Oh what joy, what bliss. A sort of homecoming. Home to a part of myself that is dormant for much of the time. I miss her; she’s energetic and vital and shiny, and super smart!
Speaking of home, this summer I got to spend a month in Ireland. I left Dublin ten years ago and have lived in the States since then. I love living here and don’t usually feel homesick. But spending time in Ireland this summer made me realize that I miss it much more than I realize. I miss Irish accents, how happy I was to be surrounded; music to my ears. I miss the sincerity in the way people speak, the genuine friendliness of people.
It was fantastic to be there, I went to the theatre, ate in great restaurants, went to art galleries, heard live music, taught yoga, reconnected with old friends, took walks by the sea and generally had a ball. Walking around Dublin city, revisiting my old haunts and discovering new places of interest, filled my being with something I don’t quite know how to articulate…remembrance on a cellular level of who I am? A quickening in my veins? A deeper sense of self?
Dublin, my city, I love you. Your imperfect beauty, your friendliness, your self-effacing wit. Your intelligent conversation. I carry you with me always.
And yet…although Ireland is in me, and I miss it, and it’s home, I don’t want to live there. This is deeply confusing to me. My family, some of my dearest friends are there. It’s where I’m from and I love it, even the yoga scene is coalescing there, and yet…
So much of who we are (or who we take ourselves to be) is constituted by the web of relationships that permeates our lives. It is really only by virtue of the other that the self can exist in any meaningful way; by relating to others we get to fully inhabit and experience ourselves. In some important way other people are our memory keepers, and by reconnecting with them we somehow remember who we are. It isn’t necessarily a conscious process, its more a feeling, a quickening of some part of ourselves that we often didn’t even realize was away. But when we feel it come to life, there’s an aha moment, a sense of connection, of coming home. Which is why it’s so grounding to be with old friends, people who know our history. Together with old friends (and family) talking, laughing, having heated discussions, we don’t have to allude to our shared history, but it’s there, the background of connectedness on which our interactions rest. This is deep and important. It renews the soul.
But music gets you there too. We’ve all had the experience of a song coming on the radio and lighting up some part of ourselves that was otherwise dim. There you are cruising along in your car and suddenly an old favourite comes over the air and you’re smiling and singing along, heart dancing, body bopping in time. Or maybe you’re moved to a place of sadness and deep reflection, but something is coming through and it connects you to a former self, one who hasn’t been around for a while.
When I miss Ireland I often listen to U2 – at the risk of stating the obvious, doing so reminds of me where I’m from, reminds me of my history. And even though I’ve lived in Amsterdam and Chicago, and Brussels and Berlin, and now (most of the time) call LA home, in some deep way that I don’t feel the need to analyze, this is crucial.