Saying Hello to Here

Excerpt from "Belonging Creates and Undoes Us Both" an On Being conversation with Pádraig Ó Tuama and Krista Tippett (March 2, 2017):

The complication for me was moving home to Ireland after those years away and suddenly being back in Ireland, being north of the border, and realizing that some places that I went, people would say, “Oh, you’re from Cork. We beat you in the hurling last weekend. You’re just a local, just 250 miles down the road. But you know, you’re just local.” And other people would say, “Oh, you’re from Ireland. What’s it like for you living in our country?” And you’re kind of going, “I think I’m in my own country. I can read the entomology of the land, of the place names. I feel at home here.”

And so suddenly this question of, “What is home?” was really complicated. And here — you hear that way when people are speaking here, because Northern Ireland or the North of Ireland, though basically — they can be loaded terms. Sometimes you hear people saying, “Oh today’s a great day in this part of Ireland.” And other people say, “Today is a great day in this part of the United Kingdom.” So “here” is actually a complicated compromise. Also to be able to say, “What is happening right here, right now?” Even if it’s not what you’d choose.

And I think that is one of the things that, for me, spirituality, as well as conflict resolution, is about. There’s — so much of things are saying, “I wish things were different.” “I wish I were somewhere else.” “I wish this were not happening.” And what David Wagoner says is, “The place where you are is called Here, / And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.”

And powerful strangers might be benevolent, but only might. Powerful strangers can also be unsettling and troubling. And powerful strangers can have their own hostilities and have their own way within which they cause you to question who you are and where you’re from. And that is a way within which, for me, the notion of saying hello to “here” requires a fairly robust capacity, to tell the truth about what is really going on. And that can be very difficult.


The Pedagogy of Conflict
by Pádraig Ó Tuama, from Sorry for Your Troubles 

I

When I was a child,
I learnt to lie.
When I was a child
my parents said that sometimes,
lives are protected
by an undetected
light lie of
deception.

When I was a child,
I learnt to lie
now, I am more than twenty five
and I'm alive
because I've lied
and I am lying still
sometimes
it's the only way of living.

II

When I was a child
I learnt that I could stay alive
by obeying certain
rules:

Let your anger cool before you
blossom bruises on your brother's shoulder;

Always know your manners at the table;

Always keep the rules and never question;

Never mention certain things to certain people;

Never doubt the reasons behind
legitimate aggression;

If you compromise or humanise
you must still even out the score;

And never open up the door.
Never open up the door.
Never, never, never
open up the blasted door.

When I was a child,
I learnt that I could stay alive
by obeying certain rules.
Never open up the door

III

When I was a child,
I learnt to count to five
one, two, three, four, five.
but these days, I've been counting lives, so I count
one life
one life
one life
one life
one life
because each time is the first time
that that life has been taken.

Legitimate target
has sixteen letters
and one
long
abominable
space
between
two
dehumanising
words.


Header art by Jonny McEwen