May 2005 Reflection

Strange as this may sound, I had a strong desire to write this last Mitchell journal entry as the shout-out section that ends the liner notes on any given rap album. I don’t know, of course, how much cross-readership there is between those texts and this website, so I dispensed with the idea, realizing that for the uninitiated, it might come across as rather odd. For those of you who may be underexposed to the literary form of the shout-out, it is easily identified by rampant name abbreviation, the liberal use of code and innuendo to evoke past experiences or places, and a complete breakdown of the ability — or perhaps just the will — to spell. Who would identify Kathleen Long as the K-Train, or Trina Vargo as The TV? Would anyone else find a powerful humor in the name ‘Dizell’? Would I come across as hagiographic if I dedicated my work to the Magnificent Twelve? Could I correctly recall the gang names that the class decided on over Indian food in Limerick? Is it appropriate to refer to our benefactors in the familiar, i.e., Philip Lee and his Ping Pong Killaz (big ups for the turkey), my peeps at Jury’s (thanks for the crib), and how could I forget Diageo (keep cookin that barley, dawg)?

So we’ll set that aside, and pretend it never happened. Far more interesting is the exploration of my impulse to speak in this mad, inflated vernacular. Not unlike the completion of a huge recording project, the year that draws to a close was a combination of massive efforts on the part of innumerable people, many of whom I will never get a chance to thank in person. Some of them work behind the scenes and may not even know about their own contribution, much less receive credit for it. Others are simply too distant, too busy, or too important for me to have encountered them thus far. The shout-out is the proper venue to dispense respect and love for those who are unknown to me or to the world, and to recognize their beneficence.

There is another element to this summary of gratitude, which is the extent to which the incalculable exertions of the many underwrite the success of the one — in this case, me. I am the visible product, not unlike the artist who takes credit for an album; behind me are hundreds of enablers, like the invisible sound engineers to whom we owe the music. Because of the power of celebrity in society, the image of the solitary artist and the lone genius has replaced any realistic notion of collective labor; this has its analogue, albeit comparatively small, in the life of the Mitchell Scholar. The work that I have done this year is credited to me, though without the funnel effect of the labor done on my behalf, it would mean very little. I am allowed to claim the fruits of this success — to get my degree, to use the network, and to write another line on my CV — but it doesn’t feel right to do all this without saying somehow, loudly and noticeably, how many more people and interests the accomplishment represents.

Above all, it is important to note that the acknowledgment does not, in this case, indicate the end of anything. Achievements aside, we have formed experiences, memories, and friendships that will last us the rest of our lives. It’s true that May has snuck up on us, and there will be a lot to miss as the 2005 scholars disperse again around the world. The long and hard-fought poker nights will be missed by all the regulars (well, almost all), and my own apartment will feel increasingly empty without the constant traffic of those seeking respite, tea, conversation, dinner, or a comfortable staging ground for a touristic assault on central Dublin. What is most remarkable to me now is that there will be other cities, other apartments, other gatherings, over and over again through the years. We still have so much more to offer each other, and the ‘real’ world lies largely unexplored beyond the confines of the Fellowship Universe.

More than a lot to miss, there is a lot to which we can look forward.

In the immediate future, I am faced with a terrifying schedule of major class work, musical performance, theatrical rehearsal, and my own writings. In June I am placing my life in the hands of Ryan Hanley, who will guide the first great George Mitchell Unauthorized Irish Bike Tour. I am still going to examine the heart of the Midlands when I walk from Dublin to Galway in the summer. I am still going to see U2 play Croke Park for the first time since 1987. I look toward another whole year of fascinating research at Trinity, an exciting job as a tutor in the Disabilities Office of the university, a whole slate of theatrical projects with a new Dublin company, and, if I’m lucky, the occasional social call from the new crop of 2006 Mitchell Scholars for respite, tea, conversation, or dinner in the new apartment.

It’s an exciting outlook from this angle — mid-May, mid-decade, and mid-twenties. If you’re reading this, you probably helped to get me where I am, to this surreal place from which I can see no closed doors. I can never thank you enough. My life is just a dedication, a vast performative thank-you note, that will remain unfinished.

I don’t have any way to finish this entry either, so I’ll leave it a long way from the rap shout-out where I started: with Saigyo, 12th Century haiku master of the late Heian period.

What it is I know not
But with the gratitude
My tears fall

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