In the sun, out of the comfort zone
By the time this appears in the newspaper the blue skies may have disappeared and been replaced with cloud and rain. That's Ireland for you. But so far this summer it's not been too bad. Not only that, only last week I heard someone complaining about the 'heat'. And that's Ireland for you too, and its people.
But last week was spectacular, and is there anywhere in the world more beautiful than Ireland when it is covered with bright blue skies? On Monday of last week there was not a hint of a cloud to be seen anywhere in Ireland.
The following day a work colleague was chatting with friends and showing them a picture of her parents, who had just arrived in Mauritius on holiday. A smart aleck quipped that they would have been better off staying at home in Ireland and basking in the Irish sun. They'd have saved themselves the airfare, avoided the hassle of an airport and the discomfort of sitting in an airplane seat, and have done the environment a power of good by minimising their carbon footprint.
But it is striking how we can travel all over the world and yet miss what is right in front of our noses.
On the Monday of last week I took to the bicycle in the afternoon. It was just to get some exercise and get away from what I was doing. I was finishing off a book review and needed to get out. The tide was the wrong way for a swim so the bicycle was the next best thing.
The plan was to head out on a well-worn route, call to a friend and then cycle back home. In all it would have been approximately 18 to 20 kilometres. Neither wind nor rain, blue skies, perfect weather for cycling.
I had gone less than two kilometres when I decided the route I was taking was boring, nothing special about it. And just as I was toying with the idea of taking a different route I passed a small laneway. Earlier in the day I had been looking at a map and had spotted that there was a small lake close to school playing fields. I knew I was in the area of the playing fields, so why not cycle up the laneway? It's just what I did and to my surprise and amazement I spent the next hour being enthralled by fabulous woodland, a small stream and a lake. And it was the perfect day for it. What has surprised me most of all is the fact that I have cycled past that place for so many years and never before thought of simply turning right and exploring what was at the top of the laneway.
But isn't that the story of our lives? We seem to be programmed in some strange or odd way that makes us fit into grooves and then move forwards and backwards. It's seldom we have the inclination or the will to look out over the parapet and see what's going on just metres away from where we are.
Of course most of us think we are adventurous, far more enlightened than the generations that went ahead of us. Alas, from my experience, there's not that much movement away from our comfort zones.
Come to think about it, isn't that exactly what a prophet is, someone who has the ability to read the signs of the times and then try to put a shape on things? The prophet, like Plato's gadfly, is never at home with the status quo.
Can a prophet ever be popular?