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Beyond the horizon of history

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

IT is a very long time ago since I wrote an essay for my Philosophy degree that posed the question: “Is history teleological?” Or, in other words, does each generational narrative automatically conclude we have reached the apex of our development, our story.  
Of course, I’d never heard of the concept, or, indeed, the word until our most learned Reverend Professor the late Matt O’Donnell posed the question.
This was during a time when the church still had a huge influence on our daily lives here in Ireland and we all assumed it would continue its dominance among the secular corridors of power. (Teleological thinking? I rest my case.)
Conversely, it is a bit like the general public’s assumption here in the privileged western world that we would never be hit by a plague again. Didn’t we assume we were way too advanced scientifically and medically?   
The Covid-19 pandemic has surely put us in our place about our sense of superiority as a species. Indeed, it has put our very survival in perspective insofar as we suddenly live in a tentative world, which awaits a vaccine while holding its breath lest a surge of cases leads to another lockdown.
Listening to our CMO (Chief Medical Officer) Tony Holohan last week say he was ‘beyond nervous’ about travel abroad distilled the realities of how easily this pesky little extra-terrestrial can invade our lives, move around our planet. (I know, I know its origins are bats, allegedly, but doesn’t it look like something ET would have travelled in?)

American wakes
WE here in the west of Ireland don’t need to scratch too deeply to recall how emigration used to be a life-sentence; how the American Wake meant parents were standing on the edges of piers and quaysides saying long forlorn goodbyes to children that in many cases they would not see again for years, if at all.
Less than a century later and the term ‘the world is your oyster’ had until four months ago taken on a whole new meaning. Travel had become a rite of passage for the majority of millennials. Moving to Melbourne or Beijing, Abu Dhabi or Toronto became almost as simple as moving from Blacksod to Brighton, Doohoma to Dublin for an earlier generation.
Of course, I am sure even Extinction Rebellion activists are not arguing for a return to before such times, but hasn’t this forced interregnum offered us an ideal opportunity to consider how unnecessary it is to head to New York or Paris for the weekend? Those armadas of planes in the air are not only unsustainable for the delicate ecology of the planet but, the pandemic has now made patently clear, for our very health and safety.

Home truths
As the heavy hitters among aviation lobbyists argue for the opening of borders and the lifting of quarantines, it behoves our newly formed government to act solely in the interests of its citizens: short-term gains must remain immaterial.
My late philosophy professor loved nothing more than to escape the neo-Gothic halls of St Patrick’s College Maynooth and sail his yacht around the islands of Clew Bay. The time has never been more appropriate for us to holiday at home, discover the unbridled beauty on our own doorsteps and see beyond the horizon of our futures to ensure history will smile on our ability to see the bigger picture.