Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Gothnik on the Green: Trinity

Originally posted on Posterous, May 3, 2012

Another slow start today; I sat up most of the night editing a friend's dissertation, and felt deserving of a lie-in. Upon achieving full functionality, we decided to reconnoiter Trinity College. I want badly to see the Book of Kells, but not today; today, I just want to soak up the school itself. It's odd how much Dublin herself FEELS like a college town....she's about the size of Kansas City (well, that <does> make pigeon-holing it easier for a native Missourian), and I gather the average age of her citizens is something like 30. All of which neatly explicates her air of friendly energy.

Anyway, Trinity. We started by just walking the campus, looking at the gorgeous detailing of the Victorian buildings, and their ornate contrast with the grey concrete of the newer buildings, those housing the sciences. Trinity's science department, if memory serves, is known for her non-linear optics, though I don't know what else. Amongst the buildings was all kinds of artwork—particularly striking was a huge gold globe, interestingly riven with fissures.

Done walkabout, we went to have a look at that seldom-noticed treasure, the gift shop. Those in museums are high-order sources of all things wonderful. Forget the clodagh doorknockers, clairseach pins, and all the other kitschy stuff, head for the books and posters: there's a particularly good shop at the V & A in London, where I once bought a fascinating treatise on Victorian poisons, and the shop at Trinity's library didn't disappoint. If Tom hadn't gotten in my way—uh, I mean, been so thoughtful, I likely would have bought more books than two donkeys could carry.

An hour and change later, done with the gift shop, we stood for awhile, taking in the green in the late-afternoon sunlight, the other gawking tourists, and the students who belong here. Tucked away in one corner is a pale guy of something like 20, curled into a corner of a bench with a battered paperback—Jack Kerouac's On the Road, no less.

He's teeth-to-toenails black leather, studs, plaid, and odd piercings, topped off literally with a determinedly antisocial haircut—half Goth, half reconstructed Beatnik; how do you categorize such a person? Which is precisely the point: his studied Bohemianism is a means of rejecting society's standards, and creating his own. Neither genre is original, by now, but the fusion of the two is insouciant and entertaining. Is he a Beat-Goth? A Emo-Beat? A Gothnik?

The most important tenet of hipness does seem to be liking (or professing to like) things nobody else can stand—long-winded, tuneless jazz, grindingly dull 'poetry', and other such horrors. Taking a wider view, such earnest dullness is an attempt to arrive at an understanding of how societies work, and how individuals fit into them. Entirely appropriate, for an unusually intelligent young man growing into his full adult self; once he arrives there, the freak-show clothes probably won't be necessary any more. This young fellow was simultaneously looking for both ways to stand out, to define himself as unique among human creatures, and ways to fit in with others that neither stifle nor prostitute him. Get right down to it, isn't that what we all want from life?

Here's to his success.

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