For what are our lives but the sum of the stories told about us and what is death but the sharp intake of breath taken in anticipation of the next story.
A tiny community of monks, scratching out the lineaments of a livelihood on the Isle of Iona (a rocky outcrop of a rocky outcrop) are commissioned to make a book. The words of this book will be the words of the greatest story ever told as penned by Messrs. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is this story that has brought each and every one of these men from the green fields of Ireland to this forbidding island. But this book will not just be words on a page. It will be the labor of generations of scribes, illuminators, and bookmakers. It is a work of the highest and most eternal art, a pillar of light woven from the theads of a dark world. The book is the heart of the community, their most prized possession, the expression of their deepest desires and most ephemeral fancies. We think of creativity as a luxury of a stable society, but for these monks, the drive to create was a need, not a diversion.
The light of the great book shone far and wide and invaders from the sea came to try to capture that light and swallow it into their own dark desires. The monks knew that they could not prevail forever against these raiders, so with heavy hearts and worried brows, they sent the book on a treacherous voyage across the sea to their home in Ireland, where it could be kept safe. It came to rest in the sleepy village of Kells in County Meath, and eventually, the heart and soul of the Iona monks would become the heart and soul of Dublin, the city of a thousand songs and stories.
Each book, each person, each meal, each glass of whiskey has a story and as the traveller spins his own yarn through the rolling hills and winding alleys of Ireland, he touches for fleeting moments on all the stories that came before him and will come after him.
Had a fantastic last night in Cork. Met an Irish guy called David and his British girlfriend Chloe. We had a few drinks, talked religion, politics, music, film, the whole nine yards. We then retired to a nightclub and danced the into the small hours. We belted at top volume and in three different keys most likely Arcade Fire's "Wake Up." Hint America, adopt Irish tastes for your nightclubs.
Dublin's been great so far. I saw the above mentioned Book of Kells (my tourguide was a hung-over deadpan Irish chap who freakishly resembled Kyle Morgan), had a couple Guinnesses with a girl from Argentina at the oldest pub in Ireland, the Brazen Head (founded in the 12th century), and ate a €20 meal of Irish stew and bacon boxty at a trendy restaurant in the vibrant Temple Bar district. I visited the Jameson Distillery and tonight plan to attend Dublin's first Shakespeare festival at Trinity College. Tomorrow, it's farewell to the Emerald Isle and hello to Prague.