Not quite all there

Oct 24th, 2012 | By | Category: Personal Columns

It’s called the R445 now; gone are the days of it being the main road from Dublin to Limerick. A pair of steel uprights at the roadside once bore a sign declaring the road to be the N7.

R445 or N7, driving through the darkness of the October night, there was the thought, ‘what am I doing here?’ How am I on a road in rural Ireland in autumn time, driving through places that were to me, for years, no more than names on a map?

Maybe everyone has such moments, a sudden sense of dislocation, of wondering what set of circumstances conspired to leave one in some unexpected place.

Usually the thoughts come far from home, a sudden angst at being in a place where loved ones are at a great distance and where there is a sense of being very alone and very vulnerable; a great homesickness falls like a smothering blanket, a desire to be transported Star Trek-like to a place of safety and familiarity.

Occasional moments have played out as scenes from a film, or more likely, a documentary. A moment in Burundi, far from possible diplomatic intervention, when keen awareness was important, played itself like scenes in which one was looking in from outside; a sense of not being engaged, not being in control.

Perhaps it is simply a side effect of Einstein’s suggestion that time happens all at once; the dislocation, the sense of onlooking, arising from observing the moment from a different part of time. Perhaps it’s a product of some psychological process that disengages one from the here and now, maybe a defence mechanism, maybe a fault in the mental programming.

There are moments when Prospero’s words from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest seem to have a greater resonance.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on: the bard’s speculation bearing out theoretical physics and the belief in the unreality of time? Or pointing to some deep sense in the human psyche of alienation, of disconnection from the world?

The radio presenter announced the next song and a road sign announced ‘The Pike of Rushall’ – I knew where I was.

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