“It’s not one thing or the other
It’s all things all at once...”
- From All Things All At Once by Tired Pony
The most Topanga Canyon sounding song off the new Tired Pony record recorded there, this Gary Lightbody love song throws up this couplet that jumped out at me as a great line of hopefulness for his native Northern Ireland, seemingly more polarized that it has been for some time. Last night, on UTV Live Tonight, Paul Clark was joined by representatives of the 4 main political parties in Northern Ireland and Jeffrey Donaldson from the DUP was honest enough to say that there are some issues on which agreement will be very difficult to find; the division is wide!
Into such a scenario Tired Pony’s words offer hopeful alternative in the midst of the seeming impossible. Northern Ireland will never find the shalom, that deep down everyone would love, until we come to conjure in our wildest imaginations a society where it is not the victory of our way over their way or the defeat of their way over our way but “all things all at once.”
I personally love the “all things all at once” of living on the island of Ireland in the middle of the Venn diagram between Ireland and the UK. I love being able to cheer for Andy Murray as a fellow Brit but last weekend I was chuffed to be in Bray and hoped that Katie Taylor my Irish heroine might walk past. Gary Lightbody sang, with his other band Snow Patrol, on their song Lifening, “Ireland in the World Cup/Either North or South,” and so, in soccer terms too, he wants “all things all at once.”
It becomes much more difficult when we start thinking of the symbols, icons, heroes and history of the “one thing or the other”. We find in Northern Ireland that a flag is not so much about celebrating an identity as much as having a go at the other community. The flying of flags over communities is so indelibly engraved in the psyche that the other’s flag can raise deep seated hatred. I know of a friend from the north who married a man from the south and moved to Dublin. She had to have prayer concerning her difficulty in dealing with the Irish flag! It gets even more difficult when a hero on one side killed the ancestors or even contemporary family members of the other. I remember, while I was living in Dublin, sitting in Kilmainham Gaol watching video footage of a history that seemed so alien to what I had grown up with; heroes celebrated that my default position saw as terrorists and the enemy! My mind, heart and soul were fried. It took some time and soul searching to realign!
So, I am not being naive in how this works out but it needs to work and we need to move on. It needs to work out in how we tolerate and, dare I dream to suggest appreciate, each other’s parades. The reality is that neither side is going away. Both sides are going to continue to live in this small, and beautiful, piece of land. We need that prayer that my friend had prayed that we learn, maybe against our natural intuition, to live in a country where “it’s all things all at once.”