What makes sitting on a train the opening for a philosophical breakthrough? Somehow the travelling-across-borders generates a subliminal emotion within us to spark as we turn to reflect on our life and the idea of the journey itself, or so I’m told. I’d like to explore what it is about voyaging on a train that alludes to the notion of thought and creativity. I’m currently on a train to Tamworth from Sydney and I have approximately one hour left before the battery dies on my newly appointed laptop, gift from my father. So I haven’t much time to find my point and conclude it.
So, trains. They’re symbolic of journey, yes; of the means between a beginning and a end. The experiences and feelings before reaching that ultimate destination… whether it be Tamworth or death. Anyone who lives in NSW and studied English for their Higher School Certificate (a small minority in the schemes of things) is very able to comply with me and The Journey as it was one of our prescribed studies where we analysed it to the bullshit. I’m sure I could fit pages in between this paragraph and the next with concepts of The Journey, with short stories revolving around The Journey, with quotes, poetry, people and ideas all to do with The Journey. I could do all of this, however apart from wasting my precious battery time and your reading time unnecessarily, I’m sure you are more than capable of understanding exactly what I mean.
So now to find some examples to back myself up… Well let’s start with me. Here I am sitting on a train. I was just reading a very good novel by Lionel Shriver called ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’, and no, not Kevin Rudd our current prime minister, but Kevin the fictional seventeen-year-old who committed a high school massacre in America. Good book, by the way, and what an amazing writer! How I aspire to be able to write something with such depth, research, integrity and flair like her. So anyway, I finished one of the chapters, ordered the Beef teriyaki with Rice for lunch and suddenly felt the urge to write. Coincidence that I’m on a train? Probably. But it is the train that gave me the subject matter for this article… the thing itself! Slightly ironic?
Okay well maybe I should explore people who, while on a train, were inspired to write about things other than the train itself. J.K. Rowling, the creator of ‘Harry Potter’, first came up with the idea of the saga while taking a ride on a train. She expressed how the vision of a boy sitting on a train going to a school for wizards suddenly popped into her head. Lucky her. Maybe if I sat and continuously looked at the evergreen pastures and trees outside my moving window, I too will come up with an ingenious idea that moves people’s hearts and provides me with a decent income.
A friend of mine wrote a short satire about a young man searching for enlightenment. She mentions the train has something to do with receiving a greater philosophical understanding about life (must get quote). It was, of course, a parody, but there is always some truth in a joke.
How about ‘The Polar Express’ book/film? That is a train that goes somewhere magical… The North Pole. Is the train the focus though? I’m actually unfamiliar with the text. End of that example.
In C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe’ the children take a train to their uncle’s house… Could the train be foreboding something??? Something mystical and out-of-this-world perhaps!?
Now I’m just sounding desperate. All I have concluded by my very poor examples is that the train could mean something philosophical somehow.
With only twenty minutes left, hopefully some insight will be gained and I will have witnessed a higher plane of consciousness. The only thing so far is that I forgot about my tea and it went almost cold because I was so distracted from writing. And I absolutely love tea. IT MUST BE THE TRAIN.
Are trains something special or are they just a symbolic means of expression in regards to the traveller’s journey? Are they just a convention of English Literature that we learn in school, like how water or bathing symbolises re-birth and cleansing? Every time I take a shower I don’t think about my soul being cleansed, but I do feel a unique sense of refreshment afterwards. I guess if I had more time I could further this discussion (I’m seriously lacking resources like the Internet). Alas I come to an end of no real point made. Maybe this article is philosophical in itself… and slightly existential perhaps.
Danielle Sophia Raffaele.