“Do you realise the implications of a cashless society?” asks a young man that looks to be in his late twenties on O’Connell Street.
“Yes, I’ve thought about it a little bit,” I reply.
“The whole world is changing, man,” he says, “we’re all gonna become slaves which is why for the past while I’ve been living in a tent as I’ve decided to go off the grid”.
“Sounds good,” I say, genuinely fascinated.
He then proceeds to hand me a little booklet to read which I say I’ll have a look at on the way home. He then tells me he was asking for the donation of anything even as little as a penny to help with printing and so I hand him 150 pennies. Later on, I open the booklet on a random page suggesting that barcodes contain the mark of the beast 666, and so I put it away again, as I’m not in the mood for such ideas today.
I arrive in Dublin (all photos from the day are here) in the morning and quickly realise that I didn’t put on enough clothes. The spring breeze cuts through me and I decide to promptly go to Zara to buy a new jumper. As soon as I arrive in the men’s section, my eye is caught by a sort of top that looks like a hybrid of a lumberjack shirt, a jacket, and a jumper; it’s on sale at 50% off and so, after briefly trying it on, at which point I love it even more, I march to the checkout, hastily slap a fifty euro note on the counter, collect my change, and leave to go about my day, my previous chilly feeling vanquished and replaced by a reassuring warmth, like a baby cocooned in a mother’s womb.
There are lots of people whirring around on electric scooters now, and there seems to be more cycle lanes than I recall from the last time I was here. Pubs have piles of kegs of beer and mixers outside, in preparation for the first St Patrick’s Day celebrations in three years and on this day I feel a huge amount of excitement at the prospect of watching people go about their lives. There’s nothing more fascinating really.
Everyone is walking around, preoccupied with their own inner monologues, with many staring into screens when alone or even in company. And I don’t say this with a “holier than thou” attitude. I love my screen. Many hours of joy glow forth from it into my synapses. I have a lifetime of books stored on it, access to any music I want to listen to, any movies I want to watch, and it even tells me where to go when I am lost in a strange city. Amazing. We are kind of slaves to these glowing screens though. And there’s no going back. And I wonder if there will come a day when, rather than being a compliment to us, we will become secondary to technology. I guess that’s what the Matrix was about: man merging with machine, and being exploited by it, becoming a mere biological battery to the far more powerful machine that he himself created.
But back to reality, even though it does seem somewhat banal compared to the fiction planted in our heads by literature, romantic comedies and love songs.
At Stephen’s Green there is a man playing music to passers-by, and I ponder what the essence of music is. It seems to me that most music is kind of a fantasy of an idealised state of the interplay between men and women. I read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography years ago and he said that as his father’s mental health was fading in old age that he came to be of the opinion that the purpose of music was to hypnotise people into getting married and having children, and that doesn’t seem that outlandish. For what is life without a little fantasy? And what are musicians but pedlars of fantasy that stirs the soul? The problems happen when one actually gets married and comes to the realisation that “This Ain’t A Love Song” as the Bon Jovi song goes. Oh well, sorry, no refunds.
So, what is Dublin? A place where successive waves of people came and built and lived and loved and were mostly forgotten, apart from a tiny few who were recorded in history books for some deed that someone deemed notable and worthy of recording. One day is not remotely enough time to conceptualise it in any case. In fact, one lifetime would not be enough.
On my way from town, I decide to go and visit Phoenix Park and I pass a man sitting on one of the many bridges that cross the Liffey. He has a begging cup in his hand, which is tipping forward and looks likely to drop, and his eyes are swimming in his head. I wonder if it’s heroin he is on. Until the drugs wear off, he is cocooned in oblivion, perhaps he feels himself as blissful as he did when he was in his mother’s womb. But such bliss can’t last, it never does, for any of us.
In Phoenix Park I go in search of the deer that I know inhabit there. I find it rather fascinating that they stay in the park and don’t wander out into the city and on to the roads. Along the way I see a several grey squirrels scurrying around on the ground, below some trees, presumably foraging for bugs or worms to eat. I can come within two metres of some of them before they decide to scarper up a tree. They are curious little creatures. Nearby is a pond with some of the fattest and laziest ducks I have ever seen. I walk right up to them and they don’t act startled nor exhibit any fear. They just look at me with a lazy indifference. It’s almost as if they consider themselves untouchable, like made men in gangster movies. I get so close, I fancy I could pet them, but I don’t. I don’t recall ever seeing such fat and lazy ducks in Galway. I wonder if these guys have become the victims of an abundance of shitty carbs, discarded and given by humans, rather than being arsed to go searching for what they are supposed to eat. Hunters with rifles wouldn’t even need their rifles if they had a mind to catch and eat these guys, I’m almost sure one could simply grab one by the neck and chuck it in a bag. But I guess that would take all the sport out of the endeavour.
After a while walking through the park, I find a herd of Bambi-like deer. They just sit there, chewing grass and watching the world go by. They have little tags in their ears and I wonder if they have some kind of electronic implants to make sure they don’t go astray. Some of them are sleeping. As I am watching, a crow perches on the back of one and looks like he is eating something, probably fleas. And I imagine a conversation between them might go like this:
Crow: “Hello, Deer, I’m here for your 3 O’clock flea removal appointment.”
Deer: “Oh hello, Crow, I’m delighted to see you, I’ve been terribly itchy on account of these little bastards, terribly itchy.”
Crow: “Don’t worry about it, I’ll soon have you pecked clean and you’ll be back to feeling beautiful in no time.”
I imagine that, in a way, that what I am witnessing is nature’s own medical industry, a symbiotic relationship between the crow and the deer. The crow gets food and the deer gets rid of his itch. For humans this process would probably involve Canesten cream or something like that. But nature has its own way of relieving itches, which is fascinating really.
As with humans, the freedoms and also the dangers of wild nature have been taken away from these animals, and now they just sit around chewing the cud, sleeping, and not having to worry about being attacked daily by hungry wolves, as they would have just a few centuries ago. In wild nature, if the slowest deer could not run faster than the fastest wolf, he was breakfast for the wolf, and so this would have resulted in a process whereby the deer as a whole, would get faster and faster, they would have to. The wolf pack would also have to evolve to become faster and faster also. The necessity of avoiding death thus made running, at any time of any day, compulsory and only the quickest survived. No training watch needed, no electronic Garmin, no measured heart rate monitor to make sure one is not overdoing it, no “carb loading”, and no finisher medal for going the distance. Victory is not being the slowest, not being devoured. Victory is life.
After a time observing the various wildlife in the park, I resolve to walk back to the train station, my mind considering other ways I might engage with the city on return visits. My legs and feet are aching from hours of walking and my mind feels a little scattered. I slump into my seat on the train. I try to read, but can’t focus. I try an audiobook but can’t focus on that either. I try some music but it all sounds like irritating noise to me at this moment in time. And after a few moments, my head drops forward and I slip into a calm sleep.
Goodbye, Dublin. I hope I’ll see you again soon.