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Saint Patrick’s: A quiet day at home

Brooks Smith | Thursday, March 18, 2010

As I sit here in my study, I write that it is Saint Patrick’s Day, a day which warms the cockles of my heart as an Irishman. All too often the great intellectual contributions of the Irish to the world languish unrecognized, despite their astounding literary, theatrical, scientific and artistic contributions. It is salutary and important, therefore, to have a day in which we pay tribute to the great Irish minds of the past.
It has not escaped my attention, however, that many people feel this day is nothing more than an excuse to indulge the baser aspects of their human nature. I look out my window over the quad and see, not the orderly procession of fellow students to their classes, but all sorts of quite unaccountable frivolity. It appears that many students have forgotten how to walk, as they stagger and stumble from place to place. Some of my schoolmates who have found comfort in the opposite sex are quite openly expressing their affection for each other by kissing, not gently but rather deeply, after the French fashion.
All this, I think, is due to the regrettable stereotype of the Irishman as a hard-drinking, potato-consuming, ugly, brawling lout, swinging a shillelagh with one hand and guzzling a Guinness with the other. I even overheard a conversation yesterday in which some students were excitedly discussing their plans to create and consume a drink they referred to as “Irish car-bombs” — a most insensitive name which makes unacceptably light of a truly dark period in recent Irish history, the sooner forgotten the better.
Indeed, I have lately noticed a great decline in public civility and morals. Why, as I was walking back from a gathering of fellow mathematicians late one night, a lady on the street walked up to me and quite boldly inquired if I wanted “sex business!” “Certainly not!” I replied, offended. “I have no intention of exposing my genitals to passersby on the street. We have hardly made each other’s acquaintance and you wish to exchange bodily fluids and lice with me? Get out of my sight!” The nerve of that saucy wench!
Yes, not for me the idle frittering away of time on pursuits of debased pleasures. I shall celebrate this distinctly Irish holiday by immersing myself in its intellectual life, perhaps underlining passages of interest in “Finnegan’s Wake” or chuckling at certain scatological episodes in Swift which I must confess I find highly amusing. Perhaps I shall take up the study of verb declensions in Gaelic as used in the “Tain Bo Cuailnge,” the great Irish mythological epic, equaled only by the Iliad in historical importance and literary merit. Or I might comb my sideburns so as to gain a greater resemblance to James Clerk Maxwell, the great unifier of the forces of electricity and magnetism and Ireland’s answer to Einstein.
What’s that? I hear a knocking at the door of my apartment. No doubt mathematical friends, come to discuss the pursuits of the mind. Come in, gentlemen! As it is Saint Patrick’s Day, the preeminent Irish holiday, I thought we might discuss Sir William Rowan Hamilton’s contributions to the science of the quaternions and the vector calculus.
Why sirs, your faces and cheeks are all quite red! Is it truly that cold out? I had thought it quite temperate. Please, my friends, lower your voices! There are other people in this apartment complex. Does my nose detect the distinctive odor of cheap whiskey? Well I never — you’re all quite soused! What are you doing with that strange contraption, that funnel affixed to a plastic tube? Is that a canister of inexpensive beer? Don’t put that dirty tube in my mouth! Mmph! Glug-glug-glug-glug-glug!
Good heavens. I feel quite strange. My whole body is positively thrumming with energy. I have a truly odd urge to sing popular music of the most low and shameful persuasion, “power ballads” and “bohemian rhapsodies” and whatnot, at the top of my lungs. What’s that you say, my good fellows? You know of an establishment nearby which sells drinks and allows its patrons to sing — a “karaoke bar?” Lead me there, gentlemen, I am at your disposal. Might I trouble you to pour me another alcoholic beverage through your wonder tube? Glug-glug-glug-glug-glug! “Is this the real life, is this just fantasy …”

Brooks Smith is a junior math and English major at Notre Dame. He can be contacted at bsmith26@nd.edu
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