blah blah blah I took a trip and you can read all about it here.
There is a strange event that happens when you’re riding a subway train and you look out the window into a train going the other direction. The seats, all identically laid out in the same repeating patterns, all blend together. It’s a blurred image, but one that looks permanent. It’s really easy to lose yourself in such a moment.
As we sat in a pub across from the giant British Museum, I asked Zach why he thought it was that seemgingly healthy marriages sometimes fall apart. The conversation had been all about different friendships or relationships or whatever it may be that we had witnessed sour when they looked like they should have been strong for years. It wasn’t necessarily that we were trying to talk about collapsed marriages, but eventually that’s just where we landed.
Zach is happily married and incredibly grateful for his wife, who encouraged him to grow up in a time in which he was resistant to that notion. When he talked about his wife, you could tell he spoke as a man who was willing to do whatever it took to make sure things stood strong between the two of them. He is a devoted man, and whether or not he intended to show that during that conversation, it showed.
He had the same things to say that I’ve always had as well. Maybe those marriages only seemed healthy but weren’t to begin with, because things don’t fall apart overnight. Love is an every day choice, not a fleeting emotion or a feeling of butterflies. It takes sacrifice and humility. They were cliche answers that I think we all know and repeat over and over but seldom actually understand. And maybe we’re not supposed to understand more than that.
Our day today had been one buried in the past, lost in a blurry moment that we never lived through. There was a morning at Buckingham Palace, watching traditions that meant nothing to us but had always been done. A massive crowd showed up in front of a palace that honestly looked a little bland, and together we all watched as soldiers in fancy uniforms marched in unison and yelled things at each other. Then a band in silly outfits played “Happy Birthday To You” which I decided was directed to me, but just a few days late. They followed it up with “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire, and of course Caravan by the royal Duke of Ellington. I assume the Queen requested this playlist, and though I’m not sure her reasoning, I greatly enjoyed what she had put together.
We followed that up with a trip through the bunkers under government buildings from which Winston Churchill ran the country during World War II. It was riveting wandering through these narrow, lifeless corridors that once housed the most important officials of an entire country during their time of biggest struggle.
It was a day of looking into the blur of the past, through rough times and through tradition, and getting totally lost in it. They were things that I couldn’t fully understand because I had never lived there, but I still was able to get lost in the blur. It really did feel like life was just a large caravan that we were all piled onto, watching as the world blurred past us.
Churchill was an amazing man. He embodied an insatiable desire to lead, a dominant personality who would refuse to listen to members of his trusted war council when they disagreed with him. Yet for the ten years before he was Prime Minister, he was out of politics entirely, bankrupt, and deeply depressed. Through it all, he held onto his well-quoted belief that all men were “worms, but I believe that I am a glow-worm.”
He had that desire to achieve great things, yes, but he also had the desire to live for something larger than even his larger than life personality. He had Britain to serve, and it drove him to do great things. He stood tall, through political opposition, personal difficulty, and World War, knowing he had more to care about.
I can’t imagine living in Britain in WWII. Facing the daily threat of invasion by Nazi Germany. The occasional bombing runs on the city of London. But the people stood tall, even in the midst of the imminent and ominous War going on, knowing they had more to care about. A lot of that was due to the bold, yet surprisingly humble leadership of Churchill, who knew that all of the struggle, all of the pressure, would be worth it. For the sake of the free world, it had to be worth it.
I wonder what exactly we’ve lost between those days and now. As progress moves forward, we tend to lose our grip entirely on the past. Yes, advances are good, but at what cost? We stare into the blur of life and get lost in the monotony, losing our grip on why we should care about anything going on around us. I wonder if Neville Chamberlain, like many of the British populace at the time, were lost in the blur and couldn’t see the threat Hitler posed. Churchill did, and was bold about it, but often was written off for being crazy. He was crazy because he was a glow-worm, standing out in the midst of the blur.
I guess the key is to look away from the blur, at least every now and then. Maybe good marriages fall apart when they are viewed as that monotonous blur day in and day out instead of the journey they really are. I know I can drown in the frustration and pain in trying to care until I reach a point where I wonder if it’s still worth it. Not just in dealing with people, but in everything. This age of social media self-promotion leaves me disillusioned with the idea of ambition. Yet then there are men like Winston Churchill, who make ambition admirable again.
In the midst of the blur, I guess it’s easy for me to lose my identity. I want so badly to find myself again. In the blur, I can lose that man I was who loved to entertain those around him with no motive other than just wanting to entertain. In the blur, I can lose that man who felt comfortable with people in any and all situations, ready and willing to chat or crack jokes or build bonds. In that blur, I can lose that man who will grow a silly beard because it was unique and different and made him stand out. In that blur, I want to disappear. To not stand out at all. I want to get lost in the blur and not draw attention to myself.
But what if I look away from the blur? Can I find that man again? Who finds joy in being himself? Can ambition, uniqueness, and standing out still be worthwhile, even if social media preaches a convoluted and blurry gospel of self? Because in the blur, all we can really see is ourselves. If we look up, we see the rest of the world for what it really is.
And that’s what it takes. We’re all caught in the blur, whether it’s relationally or professionally or whatever way it may be. Our marriages, our jobs, our hobbies, our lives all take a different perspective when we look away from the blur. And sometimes it takes something or somebody outside of ourselves for that to happen. Sometimes it takes somebody willing to look up from the blur and be a glow-worm standing out amongst the bland worms around them. And I guess it’s not that bad a thing to want to glow for the sake of all the worms around me.
Plus, worms are whack.