Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

500 Words of January – Darragh McCausland

More from the 500 Words Of January series: Darragh McCausland on finding “a silver lining of sorts” to resist the gloom. The poet Patrick Kavanagh and Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox make for extremely unlikely company, yet I found myself considering …

Thu, Jan 10, 2013, 09:30

   

More from the 500 Words Of January series: Darragh McCausland on finding “a silver lining of sorts” to resist the gloom.

The poet Patrick Kavanagh and Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox make for extremely unlikely company, yet I found myself considering both as I prepared this piece. When asked by Jim to write 500 words for January, it was the latter who first came to mind (On The Record is a music blog after all). Specifically, the lyrics to his song “My Girls” – “I don’t care for fancy things” – which read as a personal manifesto that rejects the trappings of a material world.

Ireland has just emerged from another nightmare budget and it appears the dreadful grip of the recession won’t loosen any time soon. Increasingly, in the day-to-day lives of those around me, such as coworkers, friends, family members, I see the little ways in which the crisis erodes people’s personal happiness, their sense of self worth. I see it in the face of a friend, breaking down in tears because of an unmanageable mortgage arrears. I sense it too in the letters pages of the papers every day, pages which are increasingly filled with personal stories, heartbreaking individual testimonials to how ordinary people end up paying for the folly of the powerful.

With all this happening, it can be hard to resist the gloom. It can be easy to walk out the door in the morning and feel the weight of it all, to feel that Ireland is a greyer and more washed out place, similar somehow to the country depicted in all that old footage of people emigrating in Reeling in the Years.

Going into 2012, I asked myself to what I could turn to provide a sense of personal happiness during difficult times. Going into 2013, I’m asking myself the same thing. If there is any consolation to be drawn from the recession, it’s that I’ve learned to place less value on material things. The gadgets, fancy clothes, expensive meals, holidays and general crap that occupied so much of my thoughts during the boom (which coincided with my twenties), mean a lot less to me these days. Nowadays, I find myself turning more towards good music, literature and art. I’ll look for my kicks in a poem or in a walk out of doors with a close companion rather than a wallet-busting night on the tiles.

I’m aware that as I write this, I’m probably in a more comfortable position than many in Ireland at the moment. I have a roof over my head and, though not my ideal job, a job. I don’t want this to read like one of those glib pieces about culture blossoming during a recession. I just want to identify a consolation, a silver lining of sorts. I gave the first words of this piece to Noah Lennox, but I’ll leave the last to his unlikely companion Patrick Kavanagh, whose lines I still remember from my Leaving Certificate: “Wherever life pours ordinary plenty/Won’t we be rich, my love and I.”

The credits: Darragh McCausland writes on music and culture for Totally Dublin, AU Magazine, The Racket and his blog Asleep on the Compost Heap.