“Oh I don’t know exactly what I want in a date. Just someone I can have the craic with”
(Person on “First Dates Ireland”)
And so it slowly became the mantra of the show we are all addicted to on RTE. Because in all honesty, very few people could put their finger on specific characteristics that they wanted in someone. And even those who could, would want “the craic” to be had. A connection that can’t be described and can’t be summed up in a succinct way. You have to have had the craic, to know what “having the craic” is.
It’s not just “having fun” or laughing alot. It’s not just getting on well with someone or the old English word meaning “loud conversation or bragging”. In fact, the very act of trying to prescribe a definite meaning to it, is an act defying the very nature of what the craic is to be.
Our trouble is that craic isn’t chaseable. I mean, of course in some ways it is. Surround yourself with great friends, travel to the world’s most inspiring places and do a job that you love, and the craic may come flowing from banter-barrels in vast amount.
But ultimately life isn’t like that perpetually. And just when you think you’ve cracked the code to get unlimited craic, something happens. A friend moves away, a relationship splits, a holiday turns sour, the magical moments of travel can’t always be shared, or what was once special, now becomes ordinary.
The only responses to it, that I’ve come across are broadly speaking, these (though do add your two cents, should you know another – most however, are very closely associated to one of them):
- Realise the craic isn’t what you should be chasing after and instead obey God (this is the Islamic response) and have all the pleasure in eternity (should he be willing to let you in, if he so wishes)
- Realise the craic isn’t what you should be chasing after, deny all your feelings, and seek a state outside of that. The more you do this, the more you will be free, as the world is bad, and only the spiritual is good (this, with variations, is a Buddhist response)
- Realise the craic is all there is to have, and maximise it for yourself and everyone else (or indeed minimise harm, as it’s more often put). Navigate it well, by putting your identity in so many smalls things, that the craic can never be removed from you, if one of them falls apart. And hope that it all doesn’t fall apart. Why you ought to maximise if for others, may not immediately be obvious, but do it anyway. (This is largely the secular or stoic response)
For most of us in Ireland, we’ve largely seen a variation on the Islamic response, from the Roman Catholic Church (with no disrespect meant by that to either). From the land where the craic has flowed more abundantly than most others (isn’t this why the Irish are loved all round the world?), the institutional religion has generally told us to be careful. To have the craic is nearly an act of cheeky teenage rebellion, that we didn’t know why the church was complaining, but we thought they probably were.
And all that made all the more hilarious by our harm caused by “having craic”, paling into insignificance compared to the harm caused by human rules imposed by the Church (rules on singleness for priests etc) that have been a correlating factor (if not a causing one) in the abuse scandals.
When confronted with only those options, I would want to flee quickly to the beauty of the secular response, and stomach any mental health difficulties in having an unstable identity (founded on lots of small things) or the problems in finding something bigger than ourselves in life (which even atheist thinkers have suggested we need).
But is there another way?
Several thousand years ago, when eyewitness historical accounts recorded Jesus to say that he was here “so that they may have life, and have it to the full”, people scoffed.
The religious Jews of the day interpreted fullness of life in obedience to their laws and understanding of god. Many of the Greeks went to eastern dualism (material bad, spiritual good) and would find such a claim absurd. And many stoics would laugh heartily at such exclusivity and narrow-mindedness, given how short life was. You’ll see that views really haven’t changed today, apart from in the finer detail.
But Jesus’ claim to give life Himself, rarely seemed to trample on “having the craic”. He wasn’t a dualist out to tell everyone to be serious and stop those parties. In fact, one of the few times we’re told what the “Son of Man” (another name used for Jesus and God in the Scriptures) was here to do, and it was “eating and drinking”. And so he lived it out.
Yet at the same time, he pointed to the emptiness of only having that. And how so often the craic was misused for other purposes that caused much harm to each other and to God. A night out gone wrong. He suggested that the very fact that craic exists in this world and yet we struggle to pin-point what it is, should point to us to a greater world with fuller abundance of life that is to be enjoyed. To a life-giver.
And so I’ve found it to be true. And not only true, but oh so satisfying! And I invite you to experience the life-giver too. To journey with me into life. A journey that I embarked on as a young kid, and one I’m still delving into greater depths even now, and forever will be. Eternal life won’t be a dull affair with all the life to be had, exploring to be done and craic overflowing.
Finding out what true life is, will be a roller-coaster, with bumps, jolts, moments of regret and moments you didn’t anticipate. And it’ll be a demanding one, that’ll cost you everything but leave you richer than you’ve ever been. You see the life Jesus offers is a bit like trying to define what the “craic” is.
Like any travel, that journey is best experienced by being on it, not by reading travel brochures. But to make sure you’re not being duped by a false brochure, do find someone you can trust to journey with. I can introduce you to some great travellers near you who’ll ultimately point you to the Life-giver, as He wants to make Himself known. It’s what I’ve been doing in Cork with Uncover Cork. And it’s what Jesus encourages us to do ourselves when he beckons to us to explore. I’d happily post you an eye-witness account of his life so you can find out more yourself.