Wait. Five months. Molecules all change. I am other I now.James Joyce, Ulysses
I’ve played a little game while in Dublin on and off over the span of 10 days. Could I spot the same person in a different place separated by any small length of time? There was only one chap, a Dubliner whom I recognized from a neighborhood pub on Parnell Street walking through a different corner a few days later. He was described by the bartender as an “(adjective withheld) lunatic”.
In Ulysses, you are introduced to over 200 characters, many of them overlapping throughout the unfolding events of June 16, 1904. A principle theme driving the plot is wondering about the chance encounter between the two main characters: Steven Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Stephen, like Joyce is a sensitive and gifted young man who lacks an older mentor and guide. Leopold is an equally sensitive and reflective older man who carries the consequences of estrangement and grief from the loss of his own son due to a premature death.
Throughout the novel, the son in search of a father-figure and the forlorn father in search of a son provides the tension of several near-misses until at the exhausting day’s end, they meet and carry forward the culminating interaction the reader has been waiting to experience with them.
I suppose this Dublin is still around for those who travel in familiar circles. I’ve enjoyed meeting many locals who pride themselves on the importance of extending kindness and hospitality as cardinal virtues. Whether inside the busy metropolis of Ireland’s largest and most diverse city or out in the beautiful countryside, the people I’ve met are some of the friendliest ever encountered.
David, an 84 year-old Jungian psychoanalyst from London has been regularly coming to Dublin for over 50 years to celebrate Bloomsday. He spoke of the city’s familiarity, well-known buildings along recognizable streets. The celebrations of Ulysses are still on-going. The life-blood of River Liffey still pours essential vitality into the heart of Dublin and Ireland herself. There was a great deal of celebratory joy in his annual pilgrimage to this Irish capital.
But it is seldom you hear English spoken upon the streets or in the buses and trams of the busy city. It seems this development has been occurring over the past 20 years. Dublin is an incredibly diverse city, more so than any I can ever remember visiting. Such complexity is a powerful challenge for any city. Most I spoke with considers it valuable. “It makes us more tolerant,” reflected one Irishman in his mid-60s. Another, in high-government challenged me when I said I was adjusting to being in a foreign country. “No!” he gently chastised me, “You are in my country and I am not calling you a guest, but a friend. You are in another part of your home.”
Lookout for the Irish. They have been at the intersection of migration and hosptiality for thousands of years. They were the first city in Europe to affirm same-sex marriage. They are extremely kind to the millions of tourists who come their way from every corner of the globe. They are a shining model of what a world of welcome, freedom and inclusion might be.