It’s St Patrick’s Day and an Irishman is getting ready to jump to his death from a bridge when a Priest walks past. The man sees the Priest and says, “Don’t try to stop me father. I’ve made my decision. I’m going to jump.”
” It can’t be that bad,” says the Priest, “Think of the life you have in front of you.”
“That’s one of the reasons I’m jumping,” says the man. “I have no prospects.”
“Well if that won’t stop you, think about your family.” says the Priest.
“That’s another reason.” says the man. “They all hate me.”
“Well think about your job.” says the Priest.
“I just lost my job.” says the man.
“Well if none of that will stop you, at least show some respect for St. Patrick.” says the Priest.
“Who’s St Patrick?” asks the Irish man.
The Priest steps forward, pushes him over the edge and says, “Die you Protestant pig.”
Religious tolerance and compassion apparently only go so far. St Paddy’s Day is a day celebrated around the world like no other saints day. Everybody loves the Irish, whether it’s an Irish joke, a brew or a good story. St Paddy’s Day is a reminder of the incredible history of Ireland and what it teaches ALL of us about life and resilience.
All jokes aside, life has been tough for the Irish, from the potato famine, to struggles for independence from the British to the recent economic woes, and life can be tough for ALL of us at times. How do you handle the hard times? How do you deal with challenge and loss? The message of the Irish is to NEVER give up because you never know what is still to come. The bond that exists between people, and between people and the earth, is stronger than any physical loss or disappointment.
The Irish seem to know something that we lack in younger nations such as America and Australia, although the indigenous people of each country likely “get” this innately- longevity and a large perspective on time. Ireland is an old nation, one of the most ancient of European cultures. Life has ebbed and flowed for the Irish over many generations. The courage of their ancestors and the wisdom of the land have kept them grounded. (read on for more about time and perspective)
It’s so easy to become disconnected because of our expectations and attachments. We enjoy things and then expect them to last forever. We lose things and suffer twice, once from the loss and continually from the disillusionment that we aren’t immortal. From one perspective time is linear. One thing happens and then another thing happens. However in many earth based traditions, there is a sense that beneath linear time, there is eternal depth.
It’s like the story about the guy who has a conversation with God about time-
Guy: God, how long is a million years to you?
God: A minute.
Guy: How much is a million dollars to you?
God: A penny.
Guy: Can I have a penny?
God: In a minute.
In ancient Celtic culture, they lived according to a different rhythm, divine time. They began their days, and their major festivals, at dusk rather than dawn, just as the Jewish Sabbath begins at dusk. It was about cycles and seasons guided by the earth more than linear time. It began at night, as if to remind people that life and hope so often emerge out of darkness.
The nature based view of timeless time was translated in some religious traditions as an afterlife- but this is almost to trivialize the Celtic ideal. It’s about the space beneath or beyond time, where there is no future or past, just an eternal present. This is also known as “everywhen”. It requires living with imagination, but not fantasy style imagination. It’s an imagination that sees beyond the illusion of control that we create with our tightly managed lives and schedules. It sees the connection between places and experiences, the unity that glues moments together.
Last weekend we remembered St Patrick who lived in 400AD. To think that people around the world are partying because of the story of a man who lived 1600 years ago reminds you of your connections. There is always more; more to come, more to learn, more to experience, more dots of meaning to connect. Nothing lasts, and nothing ever truly ends. Both things are true at the same time, and holding this tension is the key to mastering change.
We think a week is a long time and become frustrated when our timing and expectations are thwarted. We talk about Island Time, which is awesome for a vacation but can be frustrating when it comes to keeping an appointment. In a Celtic view of time, you are never late, just waiting for your expectations to catch up to reality. Ancient cultures remind us to take a long and deep view of time. Trust the “more” that is found everywhen, whether it’s an hour, a decade or a century after your expectations sound the alarm of impatience.
The cosmos takes this notion of timelessness a step further. Just imagine that as you look into the night sky you may be looking at the light of a star that died thousands of years before. And yet we assume that time is only linear and predictable. Time is both linear and also a united thread. Every moment is part of ONE moment. Life is connected on all sides, all the way back and all the way forward, all the way out and all the way in. Learn from the resilience of the Irish and the timelessness of the earth traditions to keep perspective about loss and death. Nothing lasts and nothing truly leaves you. All is related.
John O’Donohue, an Irish poet, put it like this,
On its outer surface time is vulnerable to transience. Regardless of its sadness or beauty, each day empties and vanishes. In its deeper heart, time is transfiguration. Time minds possibility and makes sure that nothing is lost or forgotten. That which seems to pass away on the surface of time is in fact transfigured and housed in the tabernacle of memory.
With Easter around the corner, this is a timely quote. Think of Easter as an experience of “everywhen”, journeying to the depth of timelessness. Easter is a symbol for rising above the small, and time bound, mindset that wants to control life and find security in the illusion of control. There is so much more to each moment than linear time and so much more still to come than any current loss.
Easter is about letting go; letting go of previous beliefs that were limiting the fullness of life, letting go of memories that were holding you back, letting go of fears about the future, and trusting that the empty spaces left when you let go will be filled at the right time with new possibilities beyond your wildest dreams.