There’s been a subtle change during my train journey this morning – according to on-train announcements, stations along the route are no longer ‘stops’… they’ve become ‘calling points’. Not a hugely important change, you might think, but for me this is precisely the sort of pseudo-subliminal, cynical attempt at social engineering that i find immensely irritating: Avoiding using the words ‘stop’ or ‘stopping at’ is not going to make the journey seem any quicker, no matter what the highly paid ‘experts’ and consultants might wish us to think – in the same way that momentarily flashing ‘ice-cream’ on a cinema screen is never going to persuade us to stump up the cost of a small house for a thimble-sized pot of Ben & Jerry’s. Neither is calling stations ‘calling points’ ever going to persuade anyone that they’re the sort of place you might want to while away a few happy hours over a convivial croissant and cappuccino.
Terminology rarely has the almost mythical power we ascribe to it that allows the way in which we choose to refer to things to alter the fundamental nature of our subject matter – and it’s a mistake to assert that it does, particularly when to do so means that we are critical of how others may choose to use language, (yeah, i’m being a hypocrite – what are you going to do about it?). Hence, i have little patience with those who insist on political correctness, where it’s not merited – i call a spade a spade and, if you try to insist that i do otherwise, then you can be expected to be told to shut your mouth!
That however, is not the point i wish to make.
Is is only me who thinks that it’s a weird and somewhat contrived notion to want to divorce the notion of stopping along the way from the journey itself? It’s surely an essential, and frequently necessary aspect of any sort of travelling – ultimately, if we never finally stopped, then our journey would never be over. Stopping – as any traveller will tell you – is a fundamental and inevitable part of getting from A to B; it’s as fundamental as the journeying itself. Whether it’s toilet stops – (no, not ‘comfort breaks’, or ‘stretching our legs’!) – customs’ delays, roadworks and diversions, cancellations, scheduled stops or missed connections, it is often the bits of the journey when we aren’t travelling that stick in our minds more than the journey itself. Whilst we’re travelling, rarely does anything ever happen, yet when we stop we have time to look around, take stock, perhaps make human contact or any one of a number of other possibilities. It is the downtime and the halts that define the success, or otherwise, of the journey – they are the causes of our frustrations and exclamations – in short, they are the very things that make any journey most interesting. They are not things to be resented and railed at, but rather celebrated and appreciated for what they add to the travelling. You will rarely take any journey during which a stop is completely unnecessary.
We need to pause.
Life can be overwhelming… whether due to the relentless flood of work, the press of family or other commitments, or simply the – sometimes neverending – treadmill that we can feel ourselves shackled to, day-in and day-out. Without the occasional pause, halt or complete stop, we can so easily run out of energy, break down or burn out. That break in life’s journey isn’t always easy to find though and no matter how much we may need to escape, or break free from the challenges that face us, finding a ‘getting-off point’, can be no simple matter…. Unless, of course, there is somewhere to escape to: a station along the way, a diversion; a second life to which we can flee.
A second life where, unlike so often in the real world, we can be completely in control… where we can indulge our fantasies and have fun – a place of escapism, where we can be ourselves and not conform to the rules or to the model that the world and those around us insist we follow.
Sometimes, i need to de-rail the train of life, or pull the communication cord and abandon my seat so that i can immerse myself in that unknown world beyond the windows: A place where i can stop, take my time and forget about where i’m going, and just enjoy where i am.
Don’t let your worries
cloud your head
make you blind
The Electric Stars – Blind