The Luck of the Irish Curse


The Luck of the Irish Curse

Read this essay as it appears in Watermark 

The post-deluvian mist hovered over the asphalt blacktop after that early-spring-in-Florida, four o’ clock sun shower. There, in front of me, arching out from the steambath and back over me, was the end of a rainbow: I sped toward it. And just like that, it was in the rear view mirror. And then it wasn’t there at all. I wasn’t washed in the prism, and didn’t run over a pot of gold, it just wasn’t there anymore: not behind me or stretched out further in front of me. It was, perhaps, the most anticlimactic event of my life. I often think about it and its non-eventness and try to put meaning into it, but can’t. There’s nothing to sink my pen into or wrap my mind around: no profundity, not even a picture for proof. Recollecting this Sunday drive leaves me emptier and emptier each time I recollect it: a piling up of nihilist meaninglessness that, over the years, scoops out the lessons of a lifetime like dung-clumps out of an unfinished collection.

As an essayist, I am called to piece meanings together, connecting causes and effects: pulling the universal out of the specific. As a modernist, I am called to build that meaning upon the result, the “what follows” of an event. As a social scientist, I don’t start at the beginning to build a narrative, but rather start from the meaningful result and work backwards in space-time toward the cause: identify the result, imbue the result with meaning, determine the cause and use it to reify the meaning of the result. Rinse. Repeat.

This is how history is built, an accretion of events projecting the present onto the past. By using this same approach, alternate myths and narratives live side by side. It starts with a meaningful now, interpreting causal antecedents along the way. It’s how Cold Warriors trace American history to the genius of the founding fathers, Lost Causers trace it back to the genius of the Confederacy, and Anti-Racists trace it back to 1619.

If this is the philosophical paradigm in which we operate, then driving through the end of a rainbow—an event which should be engorged with metaphorical and spiritual meaning—but finding no meaning to derive is like an Irish curse: having all the parts necessary, but somehow lacking in girth or stature to bring the mutual satisfaction needed to connect the top and the bottom of the page. Without a meaningful now, there can be no meaningful then.

Call me old-fashioned.

Some of us have lived this existential nightmare, creating stand-in causes: “I’m lucky”, “I’m blessed”, “I earned it.” What is the luck of the Irish, then, if it isn’t also a curse? Luck, good or bad, is a useless identifier of a cause; it rips a hole in the science of history. There is neither agency nor responsibility. There is no “what follows.”: Hey, I’m lucky I was born gay, right?

Call me old-fashioned.

Blessed is more than a trampstamp, pelvic girdle, skank flank or a faithful Sunday morning assertion—“I have more than I need or than you can handle.” I’m no fundamentalist. Claiming to be blessed by some higher power is well and good until you’re un-blessed: scapegoating the Almighty. Maybe I’m trying too hard, but can somebody be blessed and unblessed simultaneously:  financially, anatomically, culturally undeserving but the recipient of a cosmic gift from a giver and a taker away. “Blessed” isn’t a cause, it's a copout. But, hey, I’m blessed to have been born gay, right?

Call me old-fashioned.

Then, there is the third way along the path from cause to meaninglessness: Earned. This is the most sinister of the reproducible postmodern constructions. This cause is a self-reflexive fallacy. “I am successful because I work hard, you conversely, are unsuccessful because you don’t.” Claiming hard work as a cause claims too much responsibility without enough meaning. It’s shallow and callous.

Hey, hey, I’ve worked hard to be all this kind of gay, right?

I’m not Irish. Well, not genetically anyhow (noticeably free of that particular curse).  Maybe if I were of that lineage, I’d have something more to give to this self-indulgent discourse than a lamentation on the postmodern condition. Maybe I could derive a meaningful event out of seeing something in front of me and that same something behind me but never having crossed through it—an anti-limit, a space-time divergence. Maybe If I had the luck of the Irish, or had been blessed by a power outside of me or just worked harder at my craft, I could let a non-event be an event and could give it meaning and a history. Maybe there are just some things in life that don’t mean anything, and maybe it’s really all the things in life, and maybe accepting that makes luck the result instead of the cause.

Call me old-fashioned.

If I have to choose a manufactured cause, I’d rather give God and myself a pass when things don’t go my way—when they need a meaning—and choose luck: Neither blessed nor hard-earned, neither unblessed nor lazy, neither responsible nor irresponsible.

I’ll meander through my remaining years looking for another rainbow’s-end and its technicolor meaning. I’ll count on luck, I suppose, until I don’t have to anymore.

And here I am, having pulled meaning out of a non-event, a lucky, postmodernist hypocrite after all.

#Blessed #HardWorkPaysOff

Read More of my poetry, essays, and short stories at


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