Monday, March 16, 2009

Engine engine number nine: when the train of life derails


I sometimes recite to Salma a "choosing" rhyme that I learned as a kid:

Engine engine number nine
going down Chicago line.

If the train goes off the track
Do you want your money back?

Then if the person says, "Yes", for example, you would count out y-e-s-spells-yes-and-you-are-not-it. Of course like all choosing rhymes, if you are adept you can manipulate it to bring about the desired outcome.

I wonder about the origin of this rhyme. Was there a real accident in Chicago involving an engine number nine? Anyway, each time I recite it I get to thinking about it in a deeper sense. Because at some point, every train goes off the track of life, and you never get your money back, nor any compensation at all, except maybe the karmic variety. As the Quran says, "Whoever does an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atom's weight of evil shall see it." So yes, everything is counted and weighed.

Nevertheless, in the short run all you get is a pile of tangled metal.

Derailment happens in many ways. You get caught up in the mundane realities of life - work, bills, debt, family - and lose sight of your dreams. Or God presents you with special opportunities and you reject them out of fear of the unknown. Or you suffer an unexpected loss. Or betrayal, that's a big one, especially if it is perpetrated by someone close to you. That's explosive on the tracks. It shakes the ground beneath your feet. So you lose faith in God, or in yourself, or in the world around you, and BOOM, engine engine number nine goes crashing off the track.

What now?

Well, you are still alive. Still breathing. Other opportunities will present themselves. God is still here, you are still here, the world in all its shambling glory is still here. If you've suffered a loss then take some time to grieve and allow yourself to function at less than full capacity for a while. Then get up, dust yourself off and, armed with the wisdom of lessons learned and losses survived, step out into the world bravely, unflinching from what may come. You will recover from your loss in time. Human beings are resilient. After all, we managed to survive saber toothed tigers, ice ages and the black plague to make it this far.

So no, I don't want my money back, thank you very much.

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