Far and away

What way are we going on our journeys? We always want to know—yet we always somehow want a journey that is safe, predictable, comfortable. But if it were all that, how is it a journey and not just a routine commute? A journey implies something of the unknown, of adventure, of places beyond the horizon that we just won’t be able to see till we round it and find them. What we’re wanting is the story of our lives, only published in advance so we can see the uncomfortable parts (and hopefully skip ahead past them)—not the story we actually have, which we are in as it’s being written, at this moment.

A book of days is an archaic term variously for a sort of journal or diary, or a kind of almanac with information (as, historical tidbits) linked to each day of the calendar. The almanac version, of course, contains things that have already happened—but our own journal is an almanac whose contents we’re discovering as they happen. It really is our own personal history, except that unlike any other history, we happen to live in advance of this one. But because it’s our very own life story, why shouldn’t it always be fascinating to us, instead of something we might not want to find out?

Because we’ve all experienced things we wish didn’t happen, of course, and don’t want to have to find out if there are going to be more of those. I’m not meaning to oversimplify personal sufferings or tragedies, obviously; I’ve had a good share of those myself, and no doubt will have many more too. But life’s insistent hope to continue is what has borne us this far, and carries us on day to day, sometimes even against our will. The book of days, it seems, needs to be written, and will be written no matter what we say about it.

Well, you wouldn’t be on this journey, if it weren’t worth being on—and your personal book of days wouldn’t be in the writing right now, if it weren’t worth being written, and made available for others to see. We agonize at the falters, the falls we take, and some people no doubt would wish that none of those would happen at all (sometimes, even out of a sense of moral purity that we mustn’t fall!)—but those falters and disasters are, really, part of the very raw materials from which our life is forged, our story is written.

On a much broader scale, life itself has suffered cosmic falters that, it turns out, are part of the very forging of life beyond those events—for example, if a literal cosmic disaster hadn’t spelled the end of the dinosaurs’ reign, there would have been no environmental room for mammals to emerge that were larger than shrews, but that evolutionary “falter” is what allowed and led to our own appearance much later on. Likewise, the human family appears to have been bottlenecked down to only a few thousand individuals some 75,000 years ago (possibly by a global catastrophe caused by the Toba supervolcano, in what is now Sumatra), but that may have fine-tuned our genes in a variety of ways to accelerate the unique diversity of the one human race.

Our personal falls and falters aren’t really the disasters they feel like at the time, or may seem to be in our larger circumstances—that isn’t making light of their seriousness, but it is putting our struggles against the larger writing of our lives. They are always part of the wealth that our lives draw from, to make each of us the unique and irreplaceable story that we are.

This is a long pilgrimage we’re on, stories that have never been told before, and will never occur again. The far world, wide ocean that we cross—the struggles and falters along the way, which are not failures, but pages and chapters—are what build the book of days around us, and write us into it. It will always be a story worth writing, worth being a part of, worth reading. I hope I get to read at least a few pages of yours, but regardless, there are people around you who will read those pages, and your own book of days will touch their lives, change them in subtle ways, and become part of their own book of days in turn. Your story, in other words, goes on far beyond you as well—which itself is reason enough to make it worth writing, worth reading.

What all this comes down to is that the Author of our book of days has a wider, richer story in mind than we could imagine for ourselves—and the best news we can have, I think, that keeps us wanting to see each page turned till the end, is that the story always turns out better than maybe we thought it would, better than we hoped it could.

Enya, once again, has a perceptive take on living in a book of days—please enjoy this video of hers, of her song by that name. (You may also recognize the song as featured in the 1992 film Far and Away, scenes of which appear in the video as part of its own story.)

(I keep finding good videos that don’t allow embedding, so I’m sorry this will take you to a YouTube link, but the video is certainly worth it.)

Here are the lyrics (including translation of the Irish):

One day, one night, one moment
my dreams could be tomorrow
one step, one fall, one falter
east or west
over earth or by ocean
one way to be my journey
this way could be my Book of Days

Ó lá go lá, mo thuras,                         From day to day, my journey,
an bealach fada romham                   the long pilgrimage before me
Ó oíche go hoíche, mo thuras,           From night to night, my journey,
na scéalta nach mbeidh a choích’     the stories that will never be again

No day, no night, no moment
can hold me back from trying
I’ll flag, I’ll fall, I’ll falter
I’ll find my day may be far and away
far and away

One day, one night, one moment
with a dream to be leaving
one step, one fall, one falter
and a new earth across a wide ocean
this way became my journey
this day ends together, far and away

This day ends together, far and away
far and away

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