TÍR NA N-ÓG: THE LAND OF YOUTH
The Celtic tradition had a wonderful sense of the way eternal time is woven through our human time. There is the lovely story of Oisín who was one of the Fianna, the band of Celtic warriors. He was tempted and seduced to visit the land called 'Tír na n-Óg'. Tír na N-Óg is the land of eternal youth, where the good people, the fairy people lived. Oisín went off with them and for a long, long time he lived happily there with his woman, Niamh of the golden hair. The time seemed so short to him, being a time of great joy. The quality of our experience always determines the actual rhythm of time. When you are in pain, every moment slows down until it resembles a week. When you are happy and really enjoying your life, time flies. Oisín's time passed really quickly in the land of Tír na n-Óg. Then his longing for his old life began to gnaw. He began to wonder how the Fianna were and what was happening in Ireland. He began to long for home, the land of Éire. The fairy people discouraged him, because they knew that as a former inhabitant of mortal and linear time, he would be in danger of getting lost there for ever. Nevertheless, he decided to return. They gave him a beautiful white horse and told him never to dismount. If he did, he would be lost. He came on the great white horse back to the land of Ireland. Greater loneliness awaited him when he discovered that he had been gone for hundreds and hundreds of years. The Fianna had disappeared. He consoled himself by visiting their old hunting sites and the places where they had feasted, sung, recited old stories and achieved great feats of valour. In the meantime, Christianity had come to Ireland. When Oisín was riding around on his white horse he saw a group of men failing in an attempt at raising a big rock to build a church. He, being a warrior, had wonderful strength and he looked at them and longed to help them; but he knew he dare not dismount from the horse; if he did, he was lost. He watched them from a distance for a while, then he rode nearer. He could not resist any longer. He took his foot out of the stirrup and reached under the rock to raise it up for them, but as soon as he did the girth broke, the saddle turned over, and Oisín hit the ground. The very moment he hit the land of Ireland, he became a feeble, wrinkled old man. This is a wonderful story to show the co-existence of the two levels of time. If you broke the threshold , which the fairies observed, between these two levels of time, you ended up stranded in mortal, linear time. The destination of human time is death. Eternal time is unbroken presence.