It might seem a little odd to be inspired by a description of death, but this beautiful Irish expression has really caught my imagination.
Tá sí imithe ar shlí na fírinne.
I had heard the expression before, but seeing it somewhere recently prompted me to explore its meaning a little further. Can there be any more beautiful euphemism for death than “the path of truth”?
It’s a particularly apt metaphor – whatever our beliefs in relation to the life and the afterlife, at our death we are certainly on the path of truth. Death itself is the ultimate truth, the undeniable inevitability that awaits us all and waits for no-one.
Technology has reached immense heights in recent times. As I write, an unmanned craft that has travelled through space for nine years is approaching the dwarf planet Pluto, an inconceivable distance of 7.5 billion kilometres from earth, and will shortly begin to transmit photos of what it sees.
On a more practical level, we can video-chat to people on the other side of the world at the click of a button. What was an epic and life-threatening adventure for Christopher Columbus now takes a few short hours in an aeroplane. Penicillin and its relations have put an end to what were once life-threatening diseases. I can live-pause my tv (a concept with which I still struggle, even as a technophile), give voice commands to my mobile phone (which even occasionally obeys) and so on and so on and so on.
And yet we are powerless in the face of death. We can delay it, we can ease it, occasionally we can defy it, but eventually it catches us all. In spite of all our huge advances in biotechnology, we have not been able to locate that switch and click it back in the other direction. The search for the elixir of life, the philosopher’s stone, the secret of eternal youth is as old as legend, but that last great mystery of life continues to elude us.
Ar shlí na fírinne cinnte.