Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zenith

How often do we come across a word that in one sense sounds 'difficult' yet can have quite a simple meaning behind it? Zenith is such a word. We do not encounter it regularly in daily speech, yet most people will have an inkling of what it means. A dictionary will tell you that it typically has two meanings. On the more technical level it means that point in the visible celestial hemisphere which is vertical to the spectator; the point of the heavens directly overhead. On a more figurative level it also used to refer to the point of culmination; the greatest height; the height of success or prosperity. Perhaps the best summation of these meanings that I came across was 'the highest point'.

Whenever I hear the words 'the highest point', however, it is not 'zenith' that comes to my mind. The phrase is far more evocative to me than a mere technical term. Let me explain. For a number of years a group of us have met in various places (usually but not always one of our homes) to share some food and wine, inevitably followed by a late night session of music and song. Typically as these evenings draw to a close a call will come up for Donal to give us his rendition of Jimmy McCarthy's "The Highest Point". He will occasionally protest, but will eventually reach for the guitar, check his DADGAD tuning and deliver passionately. For me the song is hauntingly beautiful, and only Donal's version will do.

It is a love song, a terribly sad love song:

I was dreaming of my love,
With her hair tied up above,
That fair face that lights my soul
She must have stolen it from an angel.

We were dancing by the sea,
Said how she'd been missing me,
The sweetness of a song set free,
A song sung over and over and over.

Nights in dreams of heaven blue,
Stitched and fused as one we flew,
Till I awoke again a knew
That my heart is always waiting.

Still I wonder why I follow her
And I wonder why I care,
As I lift my face up from my hands,
Still I find her there.
She's the dread of my nightmare,
She's the love of my life.
You see, a dream can be the highest point
We reach within a life.

What a powerful statement - "a dream can be the highest point we reach within a life." Whether it is unrequited love, or failed ambition, or a myriad other possibilities in life that will only be achieved within our dreams.

I've been fortunate in my life to have so many dreams come true. Important to remember too that it doesn't always happen exactly as in our dreams or ambitions. Just because something doesn't work out as you envisaged does not mean it's working out badly. For me, it's about recognising when good things happen to you and being grateful for that. Family, friends, achievements - all of these bring their own 'highest points', if we let them.

Still, I guess it's good to dream, though there has to be a devastating sadness for a person where the the 'highest point' remains within their dreams. Unattained and perhaps unattainable.


  1. Zenith is a great word. Why didn't I think of that? Lovely post to finish off the A to Z challenge. Keep up the good work. Don't neglect the blogging now you're finished.

  2. Beautiful post! I think dreams are so important, it makes me sad to meet someone without a dream.

    Congrats on completing a-z. :)