Flying into Ireland is an odd experience for me. More than any other approach to a runway, I remember the descent home. I always look out the window, over the small pattern fields and the houses isolated amid the green by the roads that cut through and around them. I don’t do this with any other city I’ve lived in. The approach to Taipei is an interesting one, because the west coast of the island is a more or less uninterrupted city. The approach to Dallas/Fort Worth is pretty unimpressive, really. To be fair, most runway approaches are. My descent home is too, if I were to take away the bias that’s there.
That’s the point though. Why take away that bias? I do wonder how much of my experience looking out that window as the plane comes down is the same kind of ego-driven nostalgia we all have, or that I assume we all have, of the world centered on our own personal narrative. Is Ireland mythical in my mind because it’s part of my own personal myth? It was, after all, the setting for my adolescence. Ireland is home to things that shaped me and things that I have left behind, both in happiness and in sorrow. Ireland has always been particularly a land of myth for me personally because I spent so many of my years growing up away from my native country. Now that I live in the United States and live among Americans, Ireland continues to grow and grow in its mythical power for me. Maybe I’m just becoming an American.
It was the same growing up, though. It’s an easy out, when you’re different. We’re all different as teenagers, struggling to get back in line with where we think everybody else is. When you come from a completely different place, that place becomes the reason you’re different, and you find shelter in it, and it becomes a major part of who you are. Basically, I did what a lot of guys my age were doing with Dungeons & Dragons or maybe video games or science fiction literature. You find refuge in this thing on which you are the ultimate authority. For the guy who had seen every Star Trek: OST episode, this authority was based on knowledge, an investment of time. For me, it was a birthright.
Ireland itself is a land of myth. It helps. Irishness is all about exceptionalism, about differentiation from others (the English, in particular). Irish nationalism is about persecution followed by redemption, thwarted and denied complete national harmony at the very last. All of it helps to create this myth of being Irish, that being Irish is somehow naturally a mark of superiority. The Irish representation of national chauvinism, essentially. It’s rendered so much more powerful by the fact that it’s so utterly futile. There aren’t many people out there with a grievance against aggressive exploitation by an expanding Irish state. Well, there aren’t any. There are many people who like an Irish author, or Irish music, or have bought into this remarkably prevalent idea that Irish people are naturally charming and funny.
So, all of this makes me wonder how much of my fascination with coming home, my own participation in the myth by looking out the window of the plane and experiencing something I experience in no other city, comes from the fact that I’ve been experiencing my Irishness outside of Ireland. It’s just a place like any other, of course. Though we do actually drink more. It makes for a good Christmas.