If you ever travel to County Kerry in the South-West of Ireland, and you have a little time to spare, you may hear the story of the Blasket Islanders. No one lives permanently on these islands anymore, the last residents were taken off in 1953 and resettled on the mainland. They were farmers and fishermen, spoke Gaelic, and are remembered in several well known works of literature written in that language. The Blasket Islands (Na Blascaodaí in Irish) lie just off the Dingle Peninsula and can be seen clearly from the mainland, unless one of the frequent weather changes brings an impenetrable mist – as it did on the day we stood on Slea Head (Irish: Ceann Sléibhe) and gazed into white nothingness.
The Blasket Centre, a few minutes further along the road, is worth calling into. You can leave the twenty first century behind for a while as you are introduced to the life and times of the islanders.
One old fisherman’s wisdom hung on the wall, and reading it I was skewered by its message:
I couldn’t help wondering how different it is from the way we approach life. I glimpsed the harmony he had experienced with his life and his calling. I couldn’t help contrasting that harmony with the lack of it in our own culture.
I forget whose quote it is but someone significant once said that in our contemporary western culture “we live as though we will never encounter death, and when death comes we die as though we had never lived”. That old fisherman knew something we don’t.
Time to reflect over an Irish whiskey perhaps.