The Train as Temple

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve written anything here. And it took a long subway ride to get me to return.

The extremely long hiatus was due in large part to the fact that I was focused on creating fiction. That is, I was directing all my creative energy to writing long tracts of my novel. I was in a fiction workshop, and my need to write was being fulfilled there.

Then, I graduated and began full-time employment. I soared high in my professional career but came too close to the sun and tumbled back down until I came to a more humble position where I enjoyed a short bus commute. 

During this bus commute, I amuse myself with rather pedestrian distractions: YouTube subscriptions covering movies, video games, and 18th century cooking; the HBR IdeaCast; and online shopping. My mind was dulled by the life of the everyman: awaking to grind a cup of coffee, hopping on a bus to work, working, then coming home slightly tired and hungry. And being as such, I would spend my spare time eating and lounging on the couch watching television. On the weekends, I would do things that distract me from the humbling boredom of a life of fortune: work that wasn’t demanding and paid the most out of any job that I’d ever landed.

All of this meant that I was no longer in an intellectually stimulating environment in which I was being exposed to new ideas and concepts in literature and psychology. Any inclination towards analytical thought and articulation of those thoughts was stymied by the depressing reality of a 9-to-5 life.

But I was saved by the notoriously unreliable MTA.

Yesterday, I took a train from Queens out to Manhattan, and there were some major train delays. It was the first time I’d taken a train out to Manhattan in a while, so I cursed my luck. Being underground, I could not use my phone to distract me. I plugged in a pair of earbuds into my ears and listened to one song on repeat and, standing in a crowded train car, put on a stone face and ignored everyone and everything around me.

And it was in this state of purposeful rejection of external stimulus that I began to find the room for introspection. I began to reflect on recent events and things I’d observed—high school boys having a gaggle about some girl they’d diddled, for instance. Or perhaps to say that I began to reflect would be too prideful. Rather, I allowed thoughts to bubble up into my consciousness. Either way, this introspection opened up the doorway for me to begin writing again.

I believe that this return to writing—as small as these steps are—have to do with the fact that I began to organize my thoughts into words while I was on the train. The first step was to recognize and reflect on recent events and thoughts. This is crucial. From here, I moved on to articulate some of these thoughts. Articulating thoughts into cohesive words and sentences led me to begin writing again. And I hope to continue.

A long train commute is, in fact, a temple to me. Thankfully, I don’t need to apply to the Amtrak Residency program. All I need a MetroCard and a few train delays.

  • fulola

    jk