Islands, church trips, and the delay of gratification

Last weekend was a bit of a flop, in many ways. At least that should mean things have more potential to get better! I had been meaning to go to OSSbarcamp, and thought I had booked the hotel for my stay, but it turned out I’d forgotten, and all the ones I could find with any vacancies were far too expensive.

So on Saturday I vaguely thought of going to the Great Blasket to camp, but got up too late. (I did have a nice walk on Sliabh Coimeálta / Keeper Hill, however.) On Sunday I was more decisive about it and set off for Dún Chaoin, only to find that the ferry wasn’t expecting to be running on Monday, because of bad weather, so I wouldn’t be able to get back; and it was the last weekend of the year that it would be running.

I tried thinking of other places for rough camping, but eventually decided to drive home that evening; if I had camped somewhere else I think it would have just increased my frustration. And the weather was turning fairly unpleasant.

But now I’ve got the idea into my head, I still want to go there and camp, even if it means flying over from some other country if I leave Ireland at the end of November! But I can make a much better job of it with some planning; for example, I could go for a whole week, and that would give me time to walk the length of the island and camp where there will be even fewer people. And if I do it as soon as the season gets going, when it’s not really good for camping for most people yet, I still might get the experience of being the only person on a particular landmass all night!

It’s reminded me that there was something years ago that kept niggling at me. In fact, of all the things that I felt left out of when I was routinely being left out of things for being too geeky or strange or just different or, at that time, depressed, it was probably the one thing that left me feeling most left out. Somehow, it didn’t resolve with manipulating my ideas about it, and it eventually got cancelled out by being overwritten with a very positive experience.

What happened was that someone who I had thought was a friend of mine, at the church I then went to, was the local contact for the Taizé New Year meeting in Prague just after the Velvet Revolution, but actually she didn’t like me (neurotypical vs Aspie, as much as anything else, I think, and that I once had dared to be attracted to her despite being lower down the attractiveness ladder myself, along with the common inclination for not having depressed people around) and arranged it in such I way I wouldn’t hear of it in time to sign up for it.

It kept on getting at me afterwards, even long after I had dealt with the depression, and I started to think that the church is for people like that `friend’: `nice’, very conventional, non-depressed, people, and the `nice’ people they want at their church events, not people like me, who, even if equally middle-class, don’t think in the same way.

It also left me wanting to go there eventually, but it wouldn’t be the same going by myself, and it would have been nice to be invited to go, just like the people my `friend’ had told about the one she was organizing. Years later, someone else did invite me when there was such a meeting in her city, Lisbon… but that time I was unable to go for some other reason!

Much more recently a good friend started to learn Czech, and when she went to a language school in Prague a couple of summers ago we arranged to meet up there, so I ended up going with much nicer company than the stuffy organizer from the church. And I flew there, but it was Ryanair so it went to the other end of the country and I had to get a coach (the trip I was pointedly left out of was by coach)… and the lady on the next seat to me started chatting (she turned out to be a postdoc), and three hours when the coach arrived later we were still chatting, and she helped me find where I was going in Prague, and exchanged contact details, and later invited me to visit her when she had moved to another city, which was Lisbon — the place I’d been invited to go to the Taizé meeting at but couldn’t make!

And then while I and the friend I was visiting were going round Prague, we ran into an outdoor Russian Orthodox Liturgy, with the original form of some of the chants that Taizé copied.

It might have been a run of arranged things and co-incidences, but I felt it as a time of extraordinary grace.

So in many ways it was better than the trip I missed out on might have been for me (as that would have been with people who looked down on me or `othered’ me for being geeky and depressed); in fact, the time I did actually get there was probably the nicest holiday I’ve ever had. And I’ve told myself that the same kind of improvement could happen with going to the island to camp. In fact, spending a week on the island could be very much a spiritual experience (although very different from what life on the island would have been like when regularly inhabited).

The feeling of the conventional church not being a place for geeky people like me has remained, but it’s not a problem for me now. I still go to church sometimes, but I also attend Quaker Meetings, which fit in with me much better. (Interestingly, I get the impression that if you got the geek community to design a religious organization, we’d probably come up with something like the Quakers.)

There’s still one thing I missed experiencing from that trip that I missed, which I’d like to experience sometime, and that’s being in a country that’s just been liberated from an oppressive communist regime. So I might yet find myself visiting North Korea, or Cuba, when their present regimes fall. But with the way the `European Union’ is going, with the Lisbon Treaty being self-amending and providing for countries to introduce the death penalty against rioting, I suspect that our grey rulers are building up towards a replacement for the old Eastern Bloc. I hope it will fall in my lifetime. So I might get that feeling of being in a newly liberated country without having to go anywhere. But there’d be a difference: I hope I can be one of the people bringing about such a liberation (and as I can’t dismiss the possibility of physical fighting being involved in bringing it about, although I don’t think it’s the best way to do it, I expect to remain as an `attender’, rather than a member, of the Quakers).

I’ll get to the island sometime, just like I got to Prague. And just like eventually getting to Prague, it should be all the more memorable an experience for the delay.

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