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The Real Signalman

By April 28, 2014April 22nd, 2020Articles, Read

It’s amazing the places that the perennial wisdom turns up. Whilst watching an episode of Thomas the tank engine with the family (written interestingly by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry) we came across this little gem:

Gordon: (boasting to the other engines) I’ve pulled expresses for years and have never once lost my way. I seem to know the right line by instinct.

Narrator: Every wise engine knows of course that the signalman sets the switches to make the engines run on the right tracks. But Gordon was so proud he had forgotten.

When we really believe we’re in control of life, if things go well we can become very pleased with ourselves indeed. But how we suffer when the switches change and we run on the ‘wrong’ track.

But that suffering is a call back home, a call to recognise that what we really are is not exclusively a separate little engine, but life itself: the fizzling firebox, the bubbling boiler, the smell of smoke and steam, the passing countryside, the waving onlookers and the passengers waving back; a call to recognise that there is no ‘wrong’ track, that it’s Life/Knowing/Awareness/God that is the real signalman and always was.

(Quotation from James the Red Engine by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, first published in 1948)