Mind the Gap

All the washed up rubbish and dying dreams of withered men tell a story about the infamous gap between the train and the station. It’s a maxim that drones itself into your skull through persistent savagery, preached by people and robots alike. In a transcended sense the utterance becomes internalised as a dire warning to the perseverance of physical well-being – a long winded way to say ‘keep the skin on your neck’. Even ghosts prefer to board by the doors, rather than pass through the no man’s land in between the rails. A broken, crack smoking deviant, grasping at the last straws of lucidity, can pull himself together to make that single step.

I think there is a story written in that simple line, a world implied. Mind the gap. The train is a linear device, used to connect destinations, and a congregation of people with vastly different destinations all grouped together for a moment. A recent film, Snowpiercer, uses the linear nature of the train to create an exposition of society, lay bare its callous nature and its futile rhetoric. The train is kinetic, but the passengers are not. A part of all our journeys has become automated, will the passenger in time become automated as well? Another thought, for another day.

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The station is your calling card, the harbour you pass through. It is where you wanted to arrive to start taking action. That’s important because the station is a facilitator. It facilitates your action, allows you entry into a place where action will be aligned with what you want. Inaction on a station will give you nothing, you will be static, unable to achieve anything. The trains of life will pass you by, while the seasons circumvent around you. You will stand there and grow old until the reaper rolls into the station to claim his surcharge. A final toll, for a fatal flaw.

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Between those two components there is a gap. Between the machine you travel with and the station you disembark at, there is a gap. You should always be mindful of that gap, because leaving a place and never arriving means you have fallen into the no-mans land. It means you have gone astray on the most vulnerable part of your journey. An automated journey means you are unlikely to experience growth during your displacement. There will be no struggle to rip the delusions from your illustrious mind. Failing before you reach your destination will leave you in a state of internal anarchy, because a machine cannot feel pity towards those who have not made it to the platform. It will churn it’s mechanical heart back into gear, at the impulse of an electronic charge, and roll away with the screech of churning steel.

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The mass participation of the trains of England is where this idea comes from. Take a look what has ended up down there, scattered around the train tracks. A collection of society’s expendable parts, even men whose lives have spun into the hellish depths of existential hopelessness. Men who sleep in this wasteland, sleep while trains pass by. A hapless collection. Discarded and lost things. Things that were once useful, in an auxiliary manner. Umbrellas, hats. Useless things, consumed products, skeletons. Beer cans, wrappers.

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Except, every so often something of interest sparkles among the dreary collection of long withered memorabilia. Particularly profound are children’s toys that have slipped from clumsy hands. Children are still exploring, to them the journey is not yet so well defined, the dangers not as earmarked. So they have a natural attraction towards the edge of things, they want to find the edge because that will help them define concepts, ideas and the boundaries of things. They take the toys with them to the edge. Toys are companions to a young child. Inanimate allies, given life by the power of imagination.

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The kids can sense the danger, but they can also feel the allure. A prickling of joy at imagining themselves going into the unknown and conquering what hides there. Maybe the toy slips, sneaks away in the thin span of time a daydream allows, and ends up in the gap. Falls into the tiny gap. And the child learns, in a good way, that he should mind the gap, because you can lose things to it, and they might never return.

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