When we say the world is in flux, most of us simply mean that tomorrow will probably be as different from today as today was from yesterday. Time flies because changes come at us so thick and so fast that each passing moment contains more of them. Logically, that makes our world increasingly unfamiliar and imperative that we keep up with it.
Paradoxically, that is what makes time such a supposedly priceless commodity, and yet the conundrum is that time is nothing more than the visible decay in all things physical. Time must precisely equal entropy, which makes gold as valuable as lead.
History is time, but only when it’s about us and that’s what makes it so inconsistent. For example, the New World was already ancient to those who lived there before Europeans arrived, but so much of that older history is now irrevocably lost.
Rather than feel guilt, we find it easier to blame the primitive nature of indigenous nations and their inability to accurately record significant events for our education. Then again, exotic calendars never seem to correlate with ours, which makes something as simple as the day and month impossible to record. In truth, most of us don’t care what happened to long extinct civilisations that never learned to speak our languages and who, in any case looked far too different from us to matter. Real history only really happens when we are there to witness it for ourselves.
What we do know about those who walked this planet barefoot before us, is that they seemed to have a somewhat different take on the meaning of a world in flux. They knew something about time and space that our later generations of scientists are only now beginning to appreciate. You see, physicality doesn’t control time and we are now being told that time never had to flow just one direction, like a river downhill. Time can flow backwards just as easily as it does forwards and you can scoff at that just as his now forgotten peers laughed at Einstein, when he told them that time doesn’t flow at a constant speed everywhere.
Our primitive ancestors could never be expected to know that time is a function of mass and relativity, but they knew very well that it was never as predictable as our atomic clocks might suggest. Not all changes were abstract milestones to be recorded for posterity as they occurred. To them, changes existed to be embraced as they swept over their world like waves that would make everything and everyone wet.
Ireland evolved to become the last stop between the Ancient and the New Worlds. Some parts of it that are noticeably more archaic than modern once you move out of the few small cities and get wet as you walk the land. One of the benefits of living on such a relatively small island, is that you never have far to go to see a world in flux.
Here, the last Ice Age is ancient history but only because people had yet to arrive to make it more recent. That’s not just the local penchant for starting every story from the beginning. It’s an invitation to notice the scars and detritus left by the glaciers as they succumbed to climate change and receded north. Those changes are quite literally in your face, but they will only be seen through your older and wiser set of eyes, once they adjust to the light, and they will.
The part that people played in Irish history only began with the rising sea levels that gave us the island of Ireland by cutting it off from Britain and Europe. We then went on to liberally adorn it with cosmically aligned architecture that pre-dates Egypt’s Pyramids. However, as ingenious as our first architects, mathematicians, astronomers and druids were, they were limited by what they could record using the Ogham script, which draws heavily from the natural order of a pristine world that is increasingly difficult to visualise now. The result is that our older history sometimes asks as many questions as we expect it to answer.
In common with many, if not all earlier civilisations, much of our ancient Irish history was committed to poetry, song, dance and genetic memory. That means it still survives, though liberties were apparently taken from time to time. Heroes are inevitably taller, faster and stronger than they might have really been and their accomplishments might have been proportionally embellished, but that’s not to say that giants never lived. Anyway, not every hero was celebrated by waving a practised hand over the taught strings of the harp, nor the fanciful descriptions of bards and poets. History might be entrusted to artists whose prowess was rewarded with warm welcomes and a guaranteed place at their patron’s table, but that is no guarantee of accuracy.
While specially assembled audiences duly memorised battles fought with swords, axes and allies, they were also regaled of others enacted in minds finely tuned to the real waxing and waning of time. These other worldly skirmishes occurred where and when the past and the future would occasionally overlap, or so the Seannchai, or the guilds of semi-official historians cum story tellers would tell us.
In an age long before radio, digital TV and Wi-Fi saturation and hotspots, these candle and fire-lit gatherings were common pastimes. On cold winter nights the perfume of burning turf sods would compete with that of the malt whiskey to recreate a sociable atmosphere. To this day they still speak of ancient fault lines in the membrane that holds the present largely isolated from infinity and of where it is sometimes so thin that echoes of other ages can sometimes seep through … along with other, less welcome things.