Sunday, 4 March 2018


Last week I was lost for a moment between two worlds: the real one in which we smell farts, taste chocolate and feel the power of loving hugs, and the world of Facebook, where those with opinions dare to feel powerful, because nobody is staring them in the eye.
Packing Blue Bag I headed south for one night at my friend Angel’s gaff, down in Co. Kerry, and one night on my own in West Clare.
What a great time of year to see Ireland. With high pressure keeping the rain belts out in the Atlantic, I drove on empty roads, barely offering a brake light all the way from Briarhill to Abbeyfeale.
My heart felt light, my soul singing as I drank in the amber grandeur of the Kingdom’s hills; the rare sullen stillness of its bays.

Angel’s mobile is perched on a clifftop, so as we drank 325 cups of tea, talking nonsense of profundities and profoundly of nonsense, my eyes kept glancing out of the window, drawn below to great waves pounding jagged black rocks.

Forget that stuff about blokes not sharing their feelings. We have known each other for many years, understand each others’ madnesses and whilst keeping the industries of Sri Lanka and Kenya alive, we sat from 2 ’til 11:30, pondering life’s quandaries.
Then I fell asleep to the sound of Atlantic breakers, waking in the morning refreshed and eager for the day.
No schedule.
No rush.
Never have I seen that road from Dingle to Tralee so empty. In the Summer it becomes a hideous snake of tourist traffic, but on a sunny cold Thursday morning at the end of February, it was all mine.
Much of the time I drove in silence, and then I whacked on Christy Moore, singing along with the uninhibited vigour that solitude allows.
Eventually I felt I ought to see what was happening in the world, so I hit the radio, where all the talk shows were pondering the Florida school massacre.
I arrived at Tarbert 20 minutes before the next ferry crossing over the mighty river Shannon, so after a brief brisk stretch of the legs in the freezing cold breeze, I was happy to return to my warm car, where I checked my phone.
Oh look. Loads of notifications from Facebook.
A few days earlier I’d shared somebody's post about guns in America. Shortly afterwards a good friend of mine in California left a comment which read like a press release from America’s NRA (National Rifle Association), which I promptly ignored, because I know how intractable he is about his right to bear arms.
When I lived over there we became firm friends, and he supported me during what was possibly the most difficult period of my life. Thanks to decades of hitching, I’ve developed an ability to form bonds with people whose views I find repellent.
If I trust someone, believe that they are capable of compassion and kindness, then the fact that their philosophies of life differ from mine offers an opportunity to listen and learn.
Our friendship was formed in a particular time and context. While I know well how worthy of respect he is, my Facebook friends are able only to react to what they see: his comments, which read like pure nonsense to us Europeans.
In the past I have marvelled at the eclectic gathering of souls linked only by likes of Facebook posts. My life has many tendrils, at the end of which lurk extremists, moderates, warriors and peacemakers.
Usually I’m delighted that so many varied souls appear to enjoy this colyoom, but as comments inevitably started to arrive, attacking his unacceptable attitudes to gun control, I suddenly felt protective of my American mate, so I deleted the whole post.
Of one thing I am sure: if my friend is reading this he will now feel  outraged. Blessed with the body of a Norse god, he swims between San Francisco and Alcatraz island. His mind is sharp and witty, so he is more than capable of looking after himself, both physically and mentally. Indeed, his Libertarian views dictate that he will do precisely that, if necessary to the exclusion of others.
He is the evolved embodiment of the American Way. To us in Europe, who prefer collective societies in which we all care for each other, his views seem facile and arcane, yet because I’ve some experience of the American psyche, 
I’m able to respect his views, even if I’ll never accept them.
America was formed by individuals who dared to make it happen. That frontier spirit exists still, morphed into a modern lifestyle that neither seeks nor requires external governmental help.
Obviously those who’ve never met my friend cannot possibly know what a truly good man he is. One of the great dangers of Facebook is that we congregate in mutually masturbatory groups, happily savaging those who dare to be different, all the while hiding from healthy diversity of opinion.
Yet there I was, a hypocrite committing an act of censorship, trying to spare my friend from a savaging that he would happily embrace.
Outside a sudden rumble of surf and diesel distracted me from my maelstrom of cyber confusion.  
The ferry had arrived.
Time to put away my phone; desert the unnecessary world of cyberspace; embrace the soft green hills of Clare; walk the stunning beach at Lehinch.
Time to thrill at the freedom of this rare free day, and an evening ahead, perched anonymous on barstools in cosy local pubs.

©Charlie Adley

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