Indeed, in the magnificent mathematics of creation, we recognize the language of God.
--Pope Benedict XVI, John of Nazareth, Vol. II
Cranky, hungry, and frozen with November cold, my sister and I boarded the subway, and I realized that we could ride the 6 train to the end of the line to see the abandoned City Hall subway station.
As the conductor intoned "This is the last stop," we looked at each other with guilty excitement. Thrilled by the sense of illicit adventure that enveloped the simple scene of two sisters and a sleeping man in a hoodie in an empty subway car, we looked at each other with expectant eyes. What will happen next? Will we be able to stay on this train? Will we get stuck in this car forever, lost in the belly of the city's maze of subway tunnels?
Slowly, the train began to move, and we held our breath, now racing away from The Last Stop, into something unknown. We expected that eventually the train would turn around and send us uptown once again, but we weren't sure, and in that uncertainty was our adventure.
"Am I meant to be doing this?"
"Is this what I'm supposed to be doing?"
These are questions that often roll around in a college-aged, twenty-something's mind.
We ponder these questions, discern these questions, wrestle with these questions far too often.
When really, the answer to these questions is to just go. To move forward. In the middle of a sticky Kolkata summer, we were told: Don't stagnate. Don't get lost in trying to figure out the next step, that you forget to keep moving forward.
We are made for growth, for the passage of time, for the change that arrives with the seasons. We were made to grow through different seasons, to weather different storms, and to bear the trials and the joys that arrive with each adventure.
Yet, we also long for permanence. We long to find a place where we can set down roots; where we know: this is the community I will dwell in, this is my small little garden I will tend.
One snowy Christmas night, my mother and my sister and I snuggled up in a cozy booth, and we shared some insanely decadent dessert that was smeared with chocolate and caramel, and we sipped wine conspiratorially, and spoke of heartbreak and love and all the experiences of womanhood that we had never shared with one another over the years.
And I thought of late nights laughing and crying on the floor of our kitchen, crying to my mother over boys, and laughing over the tears. I have been so hungry, I thought, for these moments that do not change, for these certain roots that can't be moved or shaken. I am anxious, I thought, for these gatherings, in simple surroundings like our suburb's small answer to New York's swanky steakhouses. I have grown to love, I realized, the small nights, that are decorated with a dusting of sweet, light snow, that are spent consuming a decent amount of wine, and just enough of a strong, rich dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth, without overwhelming it.
It reminded me of a snowy night in South Bend, of stepping through snowdrifts on the way to the ballet. It reminded me of sharing umbrellas. It reminded me of the smell of warm wool on a cold night. It reminded me of kisses under Christmas trees. It reminded me of wine-soaked snow days, and our little hammock hanging in the corner.
It reminded me of so many moments where the permanence of the moments swells over you and wraps you securely in its arms, assuring you that you have found a spot where you belong.
Perhaps life is just a race towards that moment of permanence that is not subject to time. And perhaps all these oases of solidity are signposts to remind us to keep moving; to encourage us to go forward; and to prevent us from stagnating where we are.
As we barreled around the corner, I could feel it. The train began to curve; I could sense the nose of the subway turn from South to North.
Look, Becca. LOOK.
There, outside my window, misty in the foggy, mysterious underground kingdom, shrouded in dark, was the City Hall subway station.
It rose out of the bleak wall, like a dusky jewel. It had a majesty that was only heightened by its melancholy air, accumulated through many years lying fallow. It glistened in the dark tunnel, an entryway into another world. It hinted that there was more outside of our dark windows than just a dirty tunnel wall. There was a whole world down there, ripe for exploration.
We spun around the corner, and, all too soon, the ornate cavern of the abandoned station was behind us. Our subway continued on, leaving the unknown and foreign behind us, speeding back into the world of lighted stations and cars filled with commuters who do not notice what lies outside the windows.
But unfortunately not the whole language. The functional truth about man has been discovered. But the truth about man himself — who he is, where he comes from, what he should do, what is right, what is wrong — this unfortunately cannot be read in the same way.
--Pope Benedict XVI, John of Nazareth, Vol. II