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Saturday, 10 February 2018

Our own gods


The sound of the engines grows louder and louder as the train departs from the Cambridge train station. I peek outside the window and see a blonde-haired lady with a turquoise suitcase and grey fur coat chasing after the train. Of course, the train doesn’t stop for her. In fact, it picks up speed. I find it amusing how some people chase after trains when they have begun their departure. I get it for buses – I do that sometimes, too – but trains are different. They absolutely won’t stop for you. At least not here in the UK.

The train has reached a constant speed, as it swooshes through the vast expanse of greenery with sporadic sights of cottage-like houses. Ah, this is what serenity looks like. If only, the sun would emerge from these thick and gloomy clouds. A slightly plump man with a white bushy beard enters the cabin and exclaims in a low and husky voice, “Tickets, please!” I snap out of my reverie and start digging into my haversack for my ticket and railcard. Three passengers to go – I must find them before he approaches me! A commotion arises between the ticket inspector and the three passengers. Wonderful, more time for me!  

The commotion turns into a full blown argument. Everyone in the cabin has stopped whatever they are doing, giving full attention to these three passengers. I make sense of the situation and realise that the three passengers are probably friends. It seems that they have missed the previous train and hopped on to this train, in hope that there would not be a penalty. The ticket inspector decides to go by the books and charges them an extra ten pounds each, as this is a peak-hour train. Just as the ticket inspector turns away from them and approaches me, one of the three passengers, a white man in his late-twenties, makes a cutting remark, “You should go home tonight and reflect on what you did. You could have been nice about it but you didn’t.” The ticket inspector looks at me, and gives me a sad smile. I feel bad for him. He was just doing his job.

The journey continues as though nothing has happened. Everyone resumes whatever they were doing prior to the commotion. I put on my ear piece and shuffle-play the playlist that I have created just for long train rides like this. I watch the barren trees pass by me, as I think of my loved ones back at home. I think of my brother has just enlisted into the army. I think of my third sister who is stressing over her A level examination, going through the exact same thing as I did six years ago. I think of my forth sister who looks like a graceful doe when she dances but an angry water buffalo when she speaks. I think of my baby sister whom I skyped just yesterday and looks as though she has grown even bigger than I last remembered. Indeed, she is no baby anymore. And I think of my dad who tells me that I’ve put on weight every time we Skype (I would be obese by now if it’s true, dad) and my mum who is always, always, always asking about my health (which hasn’t been great lately). She is what makes home, home; she is my go-to when I have my period cramps, when I can’t sleep, and when I’m aching all over. I think about my loved one who is waiting for me upon arrival in Oxford in about two hours. I think about just how important they are to me and how much I love them – more than myself, indeed. I think about how love is so powerful, as to make a selfish person like myself selfless.

But then, I also realise that I am wrong. Love is not selfless. It is in every bit selfish. I protect and care for these people because if something were to happen to them, my heart would be wrecked. I love them; I love them with all my heart because it brings me joy, and satisfaction, and purpose. I think about them, and I miss them dearly, because they give me a place I can call home even when I am thousands of miles away.

And then I suddenly understand why that blonde-haired lady would chase after the train even though it wasn’t going to stop for her anyway. I also understand why the passenger in front of me condemned the ticket inspector for merely doing his job. It is this: regardless of how good or bad it is, the action or thought of every human being is ultimately driven by none other than him or herself. I do a quick Google search, as I always do when looking for answers, and find that there is, indeed, a philosophical term for it: psychological egoism. Whether you love or hate a person, whether you commit a theft or donate to a charity, you are ultimately motivated by self-interest. The blonde-haired lady chased after the train because, instinctively, she expected it to stop for her even though she knew it wouldn’t. The passenger in front of me faulted the ticket inspector for doing his job because in his perspective, it wasn’t fair. At the end of the day, we see things from our own perspective. In my eyes, the world and everything in it revolves around me. And in your eyes, they revolve around you.

But the funny thing is: even when you turn into ashes, the world continues to spin. Someone will probably shed a tear or two. Another, buckets. But eventually, you will become a faded memory, buried in the shadow of new acquaintances and experiences. And when the people who remember you turn into ashes, too, there will probably be barely any trace left of you in this world. And in spite of that, in spite of having a full knowledge of that, you would still continue to live this life as though the world revolves around you. As though the sun rises every morning, the stars sparkle in the night, the waves sing a never-ending lullaby just for you. And so will I. Why? Because that’s a human thing to do. Because at the end of the day, like it or not, we are all our own gods.

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