I’m sure that someone, somewhere before me has said that this whole “luck of the Irish” thing must have been originally intended as a joke. As an Irishman and half-assed philosopher (as if one can be the former without being the latter), I can’t seem to keep this thought far from mind, especially during the week leading up to St. Paddy’s day.
After all, what luck have we had to celebrate? Being Irish hasn’t managed to get me anything besides a crappy last name, a pasty complexion and a guilty conscience.
But it goes way beyond poor old me. Even the most basic knowledge of Irish history should be enough to convince anyone that we’re some of the unluckiest people in the world. If your upbringing was anything like mine, you grew up hearing the litany of crimes that have been committed against our people for thousands of years. Our ancestors taken as slaves by Julius Caesar, our women raped by the Vikings, our priests murdered by Cromwell; our people have been starved to death by Trevelyan, persecuted by American nativists, brutalized by the Black and Tans and ridiculed by Paisley.
Even worse, there’s the existential misery Irishmen face on a daily basis. There’s the alcoholism, the sexual repression, the bullying clergymen, the. uh. anatomical inadequacy (which I wouldn’t know anything about, of course – there’s always an exception to the rule). But worst of all is the guilt: that deep, profound, metaphysical guilt that makes you feel like you should apologize to the Blessed Virgin for every breath you take.
And even after all that, we’re still some of the most joyful, friendly, optimistic people you’d ever want to be around. Irishmen are famous for our sense of humor, our passion for good conversation, our loyalty, our fondness of language, our grit, and our ability to laugh in the face of adversity.
The point is that the “luck of the Irish” isn’t really luck at all: It’s skill – the kind of skill that it takes for people to get in the right frame of mind, to get their priorities straight and stop worrying about the pointless minutiae that dominates the postmodern psyche. It’s a skill that everyone can cultivate, regardless of their heritage, if only they would take the time.
I hope everyone seizes the opportunity this St. Patrick’s Day to become just a little more Irish. By that I don’t mean putting on a ridiculous green costume and waking up at 5 a.m. for “kegs and eggs”- although you certainly should do those things. I mean taking the time to value the simple things in life, the things that make life worth living. The Irish have only been able to maintain our joi de vivre over the centuries because we’ve learned to appreciate the important things: A merciful God, loving family, loyal friends and strong drinks – preferably in that order, but not necessarily. So for one day, forget about your troubles and take the time to savor that cold beer, that brisk March wind and that friend across the table from you at the bar.
Here’s hoping that you do. Slainte!
Tony Cox is a senior philosophy major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]