Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life As A Backwards Train Journey.

"Life is understood backwards but it must be lived forwards" - Soren Kierkegaard
If you sit on the train with your back to the engine you get an entirely different perspective on the journey. You see things only as places you've been as they move away from you into the past. Of course you can see the parallel that I'm thinking of here. Much like experiences in life.

We are only able to see what we have done or where we have been as though it were the train journey, a brief instance parallel, in the moment, then it slips away into the past. Objects near to us seem more immediate, objects further away more distant. The station we pass through like a fleeting acquaintance, the station we stop at a slightly more well know friend. A town we know from the nearness of some buildings and the continuation of the suburbs, someone known well but become familiar and almost viewed with the contempt of over familiarity.

Even the people we travel with are much in parallel to life. Someone can sit right beside you for the entire journey and you don't even talk to them, or a complete stranger can strike up a conversation and for brief moments you have some connection. You can cause discomfort to each other through your disregard of personal space or be as adjusting, making as much allowance for their comfort, and they will still look upon you with scorn as they leave.

Much of the time I find it difficult not to fall in love on the train (all too frequently), but these (much like my life) are only fleeting crushes that never reach any level of requitement. I often wonder how many other lonely people there are travelling back and forth only millimetres from someone who could be their very soul mate.

Even here the better off exclude themselves from the “riff-raff”, cosseting themselves in their elitist first class carriages, economic circumstance standing between us and them. Less people in more space with slightly better furnishings. The rest of us left to be cramped and fight for the poor crumbs and little space that our meagre money buys us to travel with. 

Even the activities we undertake separate us further. The intellectuals reading books (even differentiating amongst themselves by what they read). The workaholic salary men catching up on e-mail, memos, reports they just didn't have the time to cover during the working day (may the gods forbid they “drop out of the loop” by not being up to date). Mothers organise children over the phone. Fathers admonish sons for the weekend misconducts. People like myself with laptops demarking hierarchies again based on size and power. Even I myself tag my position in society by using a cut down laptop running Linux (yes techno-geek as ever). Children text each other with the urgency of people that haven't talked for seconds, therefore could be missing out on the minutiae of each others existence. Or more importantly who “fancies” who this week, and what dreadfully uncool thing their parents insisted they did this weekend.

Every day, every morning and evening these parallel microcosms spew out of the suburbs and co-mingle in any number of London stations. Only to do the same that evening in reverse, exploding from London to seed the suburbs with commuters. Being born from our station of departure to end your brief commuter life at the station of your destination, only to be re-born the next morning to run a similar route through a similar life.

Though I do feel somewhat like Methuselah. Joining the journey at it's beginning and not leaving until almost the end, I see many people begin the trip but very few of us last to the end of the journey.

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