Slow Train

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3)

It’s been a long wait at the station, that’s for sure. Close to 2000 years as a matter of fact. The Mother Earth vending machine is still coughing up her cache of goodies for those with enough coins, but she’s definitely showing signs of wear and tear. The lobby’s a lot more crowded too, and civility is in short supply. The rules are hard to figure out these days. Some chant the high ground; some play the system; some carry big sticks. Others are too distracted to notice much of anything. But it pretty much works out the same: everybody wants what they want. The air is getting a little thin around here.

A handful still linger out on the platform. From time to time they look down the tracks for something—the tell-tale wisp of smoke or maybe a distant rumble like thunder. Every so often an odd one says he hears it coming, but few pay much attention now. Most have learned to manage their hopes, their doubts, and they simply get on with life as it is. No sense getting worked up. Even the true believers among them are restrained. The tracks have been empty for a long, long time. A few quietly wonder if a mistake was made. Maybe all this is just a misunderstanding. Maybe somebody got it wrong. Maybe they all have.

But old habits die hard. The tracks mean something after all. For one thing, they trace a line from somewhere to somewhere. Somewhere else. The tracks point, both ways, to some place other than this place. They signify that this station is not all there is, even if it is the only place they have ever known. What is more, the tracks mean that the people at the station are not here as exiles, but as passengers. The station may be their home, but they are not meant to stay here forever.

The tracks are more, however, than an intimation of elsewhere. They are a plumb line carved through the landscape of here and now. For generations their silent, persistent testimony has run lucid and true, the collateral rails figuring the inescapable equation of recompense. For centuries the tracks have been a portent holding at bay lethal anarchy, the wanton frenzy of depravity. Still, it has been such a long, long time.

Night falls. Garish light and raucous laughter spill from the station onto the abandoned platform. The empty rails gleam in the darkening landscape, impervious to scoffers and neglect, secure against the chill winds of varied and relentless enlightenments. And somewhere, perhaps, among the far hills, beyond all pale and desperate human dreams, an ancient engine crawls along its ordained way, making its inexorable passage.

*   *   *



2 Responses

  1. The allegory is extremely timely and well presented.

  2. I just wanted to communicate this is finest thing you have written in a long, long time.

    I especially liked the line: “For generations their silent, persistent testimony has run lucid and true, the collateral rails figuring the inescapable equation of recompense.”

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