One thing that has struck me since we stepped off the bus was the friendliness of the people of Belfast. While we were eating our first lunch a couple came up and asked where we were from. They had just spent nearly a year traveling abroad in Canada and had noticed our accents and wondered if we were Americans or Canadians. This led to a great discussion about what we were doing in Ireland, and the importance of home and place. Walking around the streets people would lock eyes with me smile and nod, one dapper gentleman even tipped his hat to me. Going to the spar to get some snacks I got in a great discussion with the guy behind the counter. He was surprised that I had more to say then just “Hey, how are you? May I have a bag please?” For this and carrying on the conversation we had a high-five that echoed throughout the store. He would spend the rest of the night hoping that the pretty little red “Robin” that worked behind the counter would ask him out on a date. She definitively was worth waiting for. Then I met a wonderful couple who had just finished up a month-long tour of Ireland and were on their way back home. I helped them get into the guest house and we had a wonderful discussion of the Dingle peninsula and the traditional Irish music of the region. But the most wonderful interaction I had been as I was leaving the Botanic gardens in my Study in Flowers.
As I was leaving the park, enjoying the rays of sun filtering through the trees, I came across two men sitting on a bench. One man was in a black petticoat with a waxed up gray mustache listening intently to the man across from him. Here sat an ordinary looking homeless man. Dressed in multicolored stained clothes, scratching at the bare skin behind the jacket. As I walked past them the man noticed the camera hanging from my shoulder and asked if I was going to take a picture of them. Well this led to us all having a pleasant introduction. The man with the waxed mustache was “Young Goffery with a G” and the the bearded called himself Cyril of the Botanic, or as I would go on to call him Wise Cyril. *I was informed years later by a friend of his that he not actually homeless and even at the time I met him it seemed like he had a place he called home
Cyril is a very spectacular man, within seconds of our conversation starting he went on to recite every field he had studied throughout the years. Psychology, biology, pharmacology, history, theology, physics, mathematical theory, and the list went on and on. The handles of his bike had half a dozen bags hanging from them, each filled with books. He quickly turned the subject to talk about holographs and a book entitled the Holographic Universe written by Michael Talbot. Deeply embed in quantum physics and neuroscience this book theorizes how our perspectives of time personality and even consciousness our altered by describing them as holographic. It draws examples from everything from near death experiences, to the use of LCD, to alien abductions and so much more. Cyril was able to quote the exact page and line number of certain theories and ideas throughout this book. As he rambled on his striking blue eyes would close. I could see his eyeballs fluttering behind the shield of skin, his brow squeezed in concentration as he racked his brain for the next piece of connected knowledge. Theory upon theory were linked together as he jumped from one scientist and his work, to authors, to scholarly articles. I knew instantly that there was something quite unique about Cyril.
He quickly confirmed my initial suspicions were quickly confirmed as he placed himself among a collection of notable individuals. Bill Gates, Alfred Hitchcock, Issac Newton, Albert Einstein, Temple Grandin, Mozart, Beethoven, Michelangelo, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Charles Darwin all made this list as well as a plethora of other famous figures. So what unites this eclectic group of geniuses? Well if you know who Temple Grandin is, it should be a dead giveaway; these are all people who have Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Autistic like symptoms. Cyril falls into this group as he has Aspergers syndrome.
He went on to list the symptoms of Aspergers syndrome. These include but were not limited to, difficulty with social interaction, social communication, retaining eye contact, lack of empathy, excessive talking, hyper sensitivity, as well hyper interest in particular fields. This is where Cyril seemed to even separate from the normal crowd of aspergers patients. His interest lay in the general accumulation of knowledge. We skipped around a wide range of topics from Holographic theory to absolute zero and Lord Kelvin. We talked about the construction and unveiling of the Delorean car model here in Belfast. We talked about the politics of the Irish Republic, of the British Parliament and of current actions of the Obama administration. As we talked he wrote down a few dozen books on a pamphlet advertising Premium Bonds. These books covered a variety of subjects but mostly covered health and wellness and maintaining a healthy life style, a subject Cyril really focused on as he grew older.
To list and summarize all the topics we covered would take half a dozen blogs. We talked for nearly two hours, well more he talked and lectured while I listened. I was not the only one who had discovered this marvel of a man. While we sat on the park bench Cyril would wave and make short conversation with those who passed by. He has been talking to people in the area for years and recognizes a large portion of them. He would note a man walking up with his dogs, tell me what country he was from, what he was doing in Belfast, what was going on with his friends. Through this way I was introduced to five other individuals traveling through the park, all friends of Cyril. In fact if you Google Cyril of the Botanic you find a collection of people talking, blogging, and taking photos of this unique man.
If you haven’t been able to tell by knowing me or reading this blog, my true passion lies in people. Understanding the infinite complexities of an individual is my never-ending quest. Cyril is one of the most interesting individuals I have had the pleasure to meet. He has overcome the vast difficulties of his disorder and has devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge and interacting with people who are willing to listen. He has become known throughout the entire city, and by people from across the world. He eats healthier than the majority of people I know, and seems more satisfied with his life then many who are far better off then him. He doesn’t have a job because he recklessly pursues the attainment of knowledge, but this isn’t a problem. Money, though a luxury, is not necessary for a fulfilling life. Reminiscent of the sages and wise men of old Cyril exists in a world of his own, and it is a magnificent one. So if you ever find yourself in Belfast take a stroll through the botanic gardens look for Cyril and his bike. Sit down and listen to him for a bit, and tell him I said hi, I’m sure he will remember me. Wise Cyril, a remarkable man.