Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Do

When it was time to leave Melbourne, we did so by rail, taking the Overland train. This train is named after the so-called “overlanders” who first explored the interior of Australia, and it runs between Melbourne and Adelaide at approximately the speed of a trotting emu. I believe the journey took about 10 hours, but it’s hard for me to do the math because there was a confounding 90-minute time change at the South Australian border.

This train journey was memorable for being possibly the most sedentary experience of my life. Because the journey is a day trip, there are no sleeper cars on the Overland, just two classes of seats. We splurged on the top class, where food is not free, but it is delivered to you. There are no stops on the route. There is no observation car to go to. There was enough room in the passenger car that I could have moved around if I had wanted to, and once I realized that, I didn’t feel like I needed to. I just settled in, made a little nest of reading material for myself, looked out the window, and ate what came my way.

Enjoying—as opposed to merely enduring--a train journey depends on your ability to do this, to slow yourself down to a near hibernating state. I love situations where there’s nothing to do because it means nothing is expected of me. And if nothing is expected of me, it doesn’t matter how quickly the time is or isn’t passing. After a while, I stop even looking at my watch.

I know some people, people whose sentences are peppered with words like “structure,” and “goals,” and “accomplishment,” find boredom stressful. Not me. I think it’s liberating.

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