When I finish a really good book, I always feel sad that I’ve finished it. I wish I’d read a little slower. I wish I hadn’t reached the end. But then some books, like John-Paul Flintoff’s Through the eye of a needle
helpfully include a list of other good books, leading me to what I might read next. And, I realise, life often leads me along too, taking me from one step to the next if only I let it.
Take the recent Retreat Association Conference, for example. I wrote recently of the ripple effect : how one person getting in a car with another person led to the production of The Big Silence on BBC2. Their conversation led to that TV programme which in turn inspired me to go on a silent retreat, which sparked my interest in retreats which led me to the conference.
But there’s another story – I wouldn’t have watched The Big Silence, if I hadn’t been on a retreat led by Father Christopher Jamieson, who appears in the programme. And I wouldn’t have been on that retreat led by Father Christopher if I hadn’t heard him speak at a conference in Durham. And I wouldn’t have gone to that conference if I hadn’t wanted to hear Sister Helen Prejean speak about Death Row. And I wouldn’t have been interested in Death Row or Sister Helen Prejean if I didn’t write to a man on Death Row as part of my Help100 project.
Often it seems like life is a big effort. Trying to organise this. Plan that. Make something else happen. Work out what to do next. But actually, when I look back, I realise that life has been leading me by the hand all along. It’s as if I took one step that day I wrote to the man on Death Row. What I didn’t realise was that the one step was a step onto a moving train, and that train has taken me from one exciting destination to another.
Often I can’t see the destination I’m going to next. Sometimes that’s frightening. Sometimes it’s exciting. Sometimes the train is in a tunnel, and I feel I’m alone in the dark. But the light always appears eventually and we thunder on towards it.
Or you could compare it to a website. You use google. You find one website that is relevant to you. You visit that site. But often it leads you on further, to another related site, through links, and then that second site takes you to yet more sites.
One book leads to more interesting books. One website leads to another website. One friend introduces you to a potential new friend. That train journeys on from one place to another and life leads you to where you’re truly meant to be.