Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Standing on the rush-hour train platform today heading home from the big city, for the ten minutes or so before my train came I looked individually at the folks crowding the opposite platform waiting for their train (each of us thinks of the train as our own: I was standing on my platform, waiting for my train), mostly working men and women, with some travelers and their luggage, some elders, a few kids, many teenagers, on their ways here and there, all standing neatly in their lines for their doors to their trains, some reading, some chatting, some laughing or staring at cell phones, some far away in thought, some sad looking, some depressed, many tired or simply zoned, some worried--

And then as if I were looking at a work of superfine art in a metamuseum the picture suddenly opened up to me and I saw what the artist had in mind: that each of these people and faces and lives had a long and unbroken history back through their forebears all the way to the beginning of time, that was slipping by unremarked and unrecorded at this and every moment and always had been, and always would be, as long as human life lived on, and that if you left out what was common to them all-- the quotidia, the rote repetitions of daily life-- what astonishing tales would remain!

What a story and stories were there in all those current minds and endless pasts, concealed and unspoken!! Each of these lives and all its moments was richer in beauty, tragedy and comedy than the greatest plays and stories ever written, and what we call history is but a wisp of a vapor of this vastness-- a biased, uneven, selective record of all that has in fact been lived and felt and known-- and what then is fact? History-- our guide and justification-- is as thick as the print on a page, as fixed as the image on a movie screen.

Then came the thought that this epic, of all these people and all their lives (so few of the all that are!), all their moments, countless moments in their length and depth and feeling (how do you count a moment?) were passing unseen even as we stood there, waiting for our train.


Maggie said...

I'm so glad you are feeling better, that part A is gaining a bit of flexibility and part B is complaining less. I too agree with you about telephone poles, but will sugest that sneezes and hiccups can be life threatening at any age.

So glad you were able to poke around in the earth a bit.

Mary Lou said...

Wow, You are getting really deep today...great thought!!

Thomas said...

What a beautiful picture you are painting there - thanks for sharing your thoughts and it's good to see you are feeling better after the rendezvous with the telephone pole.

And yes, isn't it amazing that there are some six billion individual life stories being told on this planet, all at the same time? And all of us will ever only hear about a few of them...