An 85-Billion Euro Picture

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How it’s New York: Kevin Holohan is an Irish writer who lives in Brooklyn and will be taking part in “Favorite Poems” at The Irish Arts Center at 8pm on November 2 to launch Poerty Fest 2012.
How it’s Irish: It’s a rumination on Celtic Tigers and other odd fauna.

There is an old saw that says “a picture is worth a thousand words” but sometimes a picture has a real monetary value and I am not talking about the amount the moneybags will pay for paintings with which to adorn their lairs: sometimes the right mental picture can be worth billions whereas the wrong one can be worse than worthless.My maternal grandfather was an art teacher by necessity, a cabinet maker by trade and a very skilled painter by vocation.  The house was filled with his work, paintings, wooden inlay, sketches and carvings.  He was very influenced by what I suppose could be called Celtic Revival arts and crafts and many of his woodcarvings and drawings contained those wonderful convoluted zoomorphic Celtic Animals, known to most via The Book of Kells and also, most ironically, featured on some of the old Irish money. 

Now, if you ask anyone what image springs to mind at the mention of “Celtic Tiger,” or if you type the term into your local neighborhood search engine (any web barons who happen to find themselves reading this take note:  you need to shell out the readies if you expect me to use your search engine’s name as a verb), the result is usually kind of green-colored Bengal Tiger, either preening or abject depending on the vintage of the image.  This is a very unfortunate accident of imagery and one that, had it gone another way, could have saved Ireland billions and much pain and distress.

You see, the thing about those wonderful stylized Celtic animals is, if you look closely at them and follow the bewildering convoluted complexity of their interlaced lines from head to tail you will find that quite often, to paraphrase Samuel Beckett, their ends are in their beginnings and that they are poised to devour their own tails.  If only this had been the image that came to mind at the mention of The Celtic Tiger instead of the Bengal tiger all dyed up for Patrick’s Day, perhaps people would have been quicker to admit that it was worse than a bubble; it was a confoundingly complicated creature of myth that fed on itself and would eventually consume itself and its habitat in a horrific act of auto-cannibalism.  
Instead, the official refusal to see the writing on the wall as late as 2007, when it was already starting to be too late, was epitomized by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern wondering why those naysayers who were talking down the Celtic Tiger economy didn’t just go off and commit suicide.  If there is a zoomorphic animal of Celtic design to represent that way of looking at the world, no prizes for guessing into which of its own orifices its head is stuck.

 

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Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts