Saturday 10 December 2016

Life reduced to detritus, memories float in filth

The flooding is a humanitarian crisis, says Brendan O'Connor, and we must not let our resolve recede with the waters

Published 13/12/2015 | 02:30

WATER: The Quiet Man Museum in Cong is threatened by the floods
WATER: The Quiet Man Museum in Cong is threatened by the floods

We build a life of bits and pieces. In many ways, this stuff we pick up along the way is who we are; it becomes our history, our home. The growing collection of sticks of furniture, photographs, ornaments and whatever else, become the layers of our past and our present. In them are our memories and our sense of self.

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We all become more painfully aware as we go along in life that one day, when we're gone, this collection of inexpertly curated stuff will be dismantled and scattered, some of it dumped, the odd bit kept as a vague memory of us. When we see it happening to other people, or when we have the sad task of disposing of a loved one's effects ourselves, it can all seem rather pathetic. Take a collection of items out of the context of the person and the home that held them together and they can just seem like vain attempts to ward off the inevitability of life and death, sad little comforts to cling on to, to protect us from the vastness of the world and of eternity.

Most of us in the first world never expect the dispersal of these bits of fragile armour to happen in our lifetime. Most of us never expect to see the comforts with which we lined our lairs to ward off the world suddenly dispersed, floating around, rendered pointless and pathetic, in filth-ridden water. And that is one of the reasons why flooding is beyond an inconvenience and is an acute trauma, a deeply upsetting experience.

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