Hello! It’s been a while. Things have been busy…really, really busy. I recently started a new job, and that fills a lot of my time.
I’m working for a charity that tackles poverty – it’s an amazing job, an amazing cause, and the people I work with are great. The commuting, however; not so great. I spend an hour and a half each way, hopping on and off four different trains, to make it to the office. All of that, and the office is only 10 miles from where I live. That’s London for you.
But I’m used to it now. It’s the typical city lifestyle.
Each day is the same. So many people on route, going off to their busy jobs. So early in the morning, everyone looks half alive. The big city routine.
I walk the half mile to the tube station every morning. And on my way into the office, I can’t help but look around the train at the somber faces staring off into oblivion. Dull. Lackluster.
I’ve been reading a new book to entertain me during the long journeys, called A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Jacob Loconte. It’s about J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and how the First World War shaped their worldview; and how their experience in the trenches set the backdrop for their epic works (The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia, respectively). The book portrays the historical setting of war-torn Europe during Tolkien’s and Lewis’ young lives. It also describes the gory battles which took place; battles that claimed millions of lives. It has been both devastating and fascinating to take in.
As I have devoured this book, there is one phrase which has held me captive and won’t release me.
Loconte describes how C.S. Lewis found a fantasy tale which inspired him to write his famous title The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It is called Phantases: A Faerie Romance by George MacDonald.
In Phantases, MacDonald discusses the greatest gift which anyone can bestow on another. (A pretty big claim!) He says:
“The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is – not to give him things to think about – but to wake things up in him; or say, to make him think things for himself.”
This passage stirred me. It made me stop. Forced me to examine myself.
I realise how much I have fallen into routine. How prone I am to following a pattern and not giving much thought to life – the joys and complexities – as I live it. How my days go by in a flash; and oftentimes, nothing about them really stands out.
Those words – wake things up in [her] – made me want to do something. Anything, really. Whatever could bring something different, rememberable, vivid, and captivating, into the daily grind. Perhaps ask better questions to learn what deep things lie within my friends’ minds; notice someone in the street and observe what makes that person distinctive; put my phone down and watch the landscape as the train goes by.
MacDonald’s claim made me think. And I realised how deeply an impact these string of words, all tied together, had on me. How they woke me. Even if it was in a small way.
Today I look around, and I see so many people, all with their own stories. Their own faults and fears; hopes, desires.
I wonder if they sleep? I wonder if they are walking around, dull to life, living their routines, only half alive?
As I looked into the blank faces, a thought dropped into my mind. As a whole, we are a culture of those who are unaffected. We are bombarded by so much noise, so many voices, and so much negativity, that we have become attuned to numbness.
Not much moves us. Nothing really makes us stop.
We are living in shadows, instead of in the sun.
And I wonder, just how different the world would be if we all walked around fully awake and fully alive.