Across all cultures, across all times and places, there have been stories about journeys. Whether we think of them as allegories for spiritual pilgrimage or metaphors for life in general, it seems that accounts where we follow a character travelling along a particular path hold universal appeal.
In the last year or so, I’ve become increasingly self-conscious about my own life as a journey in this sense. I’ve had several episodes where I’ve not only seen myself as the traveller, the quester on a mission, but have been very aware of those around me as other characters within the tale. These have been moments where I’ve wondered if the person in question really exists. These people have perhaps taught me a particular lesson or helped me along the way somehow, often then disappearing out of my life again or moving on in their own different direction – to the extent that I begin to think I’ve imagined it all. I’ve also had similar encounters with events that seem to be a turning-point or a sign-post, as well as objects that take on special significance or meaning. A book that’s lingered on my shelf for ages or that I’ve been reading only sporadically will contain a statement that so speaks to me at that moment that I know I was not meant to have read it before – or if I had, the passage would have passed me by as just words.
This happened to me last year, when returning from my holiday. The book that I’d planned on finishing whilst away,The O of Homeby Jennifer Kavannagh, had languished in my room the whole time. I opened it up again on the plane back and within minutes, hot salty tears were streaming down my face as the final chapter so spoke to what I’d experienced that week and how I was feeling right then. The book and I coincided, and it helped me travel further along my path. I’ve just had a similar experience with another book,Holiness in the everydayby David Cadman (fortunately no tears as I was reading it whilst having lunch at work!). Although only 88 pages long, it’s taken me a few weeks to get through, picking it up in odd snatches here and there. One of the final paragraphs made me realise why it had taken me so long to complete: I needed to read this passage today, right now, not on another earlier day. Cadman writes: ‘In a world so taken up with rationality and intent, with business plans and five-year strategies, is it not especially thrilling to be told that “the adventure” is always there and always about to begin; that we might stumble upon it when we least expect to?’
Having lost my way, I too have stumbled back upon my adventure and I’m now ready to continue along my path, my journey, my quest. I’m Alice in Wonderland.