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I met a man on a train today


I met a man on the train today.  The silver-haired man sat down in the seat beside me and, in a softly spoken voice said “hello”, I could tell he was kindly and open straight away.  Our conversation began as I assume a lot of travellers begin – “so where are you off to?”  It turned out that both he and I had lived in the same small town for a number of years and the conversation flowed from there.  It came up that I am an artist and a poet so I gave him some of the lyrics I had written recently.


I get so reflective

on days like these

I get an ethereal feeling

on a day like today

The world swims around my head

I feel strangely happy to be part

of the crowd

To be part of you

To be part of life

To be part of love

To be part of you

To be part of you


We chatted about the simple things, what do you do? where do you live? and gradually the conversation progressed to more significant things and he asked me how I lived and endured the hardships of life.  After a brief moment of thought, I tried to articulate some of the finer, more pertinent points from the swamp of uncertainty in my head: I refuse to hold any belief system or opinion as indelible; I allow myself to change my view, opinion or belief system at any stage; I realize that I am as fallible now as I was when I was younger; I believe that experience is the best and hardest teacher, and I intend on experiencing life this way, come what may, no regrets.  Life is a journey, it is not about reaching a destination. To be happy is the meaning and fundamental motivation of my life.  I try to be “aware” aware of the past, present and future. I have learnt and continue to learn to be content with the unknown.


I told him that I had been what I like to call a “hard out Christian” in a Pentecostal church but I left The Church – he asked me why I left, “for many reasons” I said.  Thinking about it, it was probably a two year process of questioning and being questioned.  I began to feel disillusioned when I realized that I didn't have the answers to the questions in my mind.  To uphold the impossible image of the perfect Christian, not feeling like I was spiritual enough, having a sister who is a lesbian, and when it came down to it, not believing that Jesus Christ is the only way to God - and many more reasons.  The man asked me if I knew who I was when I left the church, to which I confessed; I did not.  In fact I had lost myself in an insular world, I was condemned as a sinful being and so I tried to be more of who I thought the church wanted me to be.  I left myself behind in a whirl of worship-leading and fervent following.  A pained look crossed the face of the silver-haired man and I could tell the church had let him down.


The man interjected at various points through my incessant ramblings and this is what he said, “if you give yourself fully to someone you hold dear they may hurt you deeply, but if you do not give yourself over fully to the person then you will never experience the height of joy and love that you could.”  He was referring to holding faith. I thanked him for the challenge while being blindingly aware that I don't know the answers to the questions he inadvertently posed.


The man commented pointing at his head that “some things need to be experienced if we are too thick to get it” and other things we can learn from history and wise people.  He said his 17 year old son held the same view as me and I mused, somewhat humbly, on that for a while, wondering if I had out-grown my adolescence yet.


He agreed with me that life is about living now, being present, not about reaching a destination and added that I seem to look back and look to the future and how rare that was.


The silver-haired man is a wise man.  I'd like to know more older people, their very nature has been worn, molded by their experience, and refined to give them the wisdom they now possess, making them who they are today.  It seems somewhat ironic to me that only when our life is half over do we possess a good amount of wisdom with which to live by.


He told me I was a ‘Journeyman', that I write about how I feel and how I view the world and that the world needs more artists like me.  He implored me not to stop being as I am.


I admire and respect the man for the strength of his convictions, but I am happy not knowing and letting myself be open to being taught by the world. These days whenever I feel I can't describe precisely the way I feel about life or what is going on I simply say “Life is a funny old thing” - rather than categorize or box life, I leave it open to interpretation.


The silver-haired man wished me well on my journey – it had been a perfect train ride. I feel very fortunate to have met him, but I'm not sad it has ended. I don't know if our paths will cross once more, but may the journey continue. Amen.            


Ila Scott

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