Headnote: His life? In the doctor’s own words:
“The story of a daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away.”
Circles. My planet circles the sun and my life circles time. We meet people again, but we don’t always remember them.
In Canada, I abruptly left home after finishing grade 11. In mid-autumn, I wandered into a community centre and met someone I hadn’t seen since grade three. That’s a lot of circles past. Of course from childhood to adulthood our bodies had changed, but we still recognized each other—how cool to meet in a big city, miles away from our rural elementary school. She was selling hippie crafts, while her longhaired boy friend mutely glared at me.
I went away feeling that something significant had happened—but who could I tell? Who, on these mean streets of the naked city? Easy: I found a notebook, started a journal.
Circles. It was Joni Mitchel who sang, back then, how we are all caught up in the circle game. “And the seasons, they go round and round…” Last month a lady new to my Free Fall Friday group, Suzanne, wrote of celebrating her wedding anniversary by hiking where she had hiked 30 years before. There were the same red rocks. Of course she remembered them: It had been a magical time.
And me, I had a magical time at university. There I was, in same world so many of my book heroes had known. Engineers in jungle outposts, or officers on boring route marches, would remind each other of science, quote poetry at each other, and refer to literature. “Do you remember your Milton, Captain?” (“Better so reign in hell than to serve in heaven”) I just loved it when my chaplain, on being asked to report during at a university meeting, quoted Bartleby Scrivener.
Over 30 circles ago, when Suzanne was named Sue, and all of our campus acquaintances were single, I had known her. You may wonder: How could I still remember her, many circles later, when she appeared one morning at Free Fall Friday? Easy: From my journal. Not by re-reading it, but from having written in the first place. You see, back in the 19th century Abraham Lincoln had told his law partner, Herndon, that by writing and reading out loud, thereby engaging his senses: visual, auditory and physical, he could inscribe memories into his brain. As Abe put it, “like etching on a steel plate.” Just so. As for me, it helps that university was a marvellous place where I walked in daily gratitude. Just like Sue walking past red rocks, when she was first married. (No, she doesn’t remember me, and yes, I have my precious degree)
Circles. The planet Earth revolves, we are all circling around time, and meanwhile, on the planet Gallifrey, the Time Lords have a system of writing that is not like wedges of cuneiform, but like circles. Coincidence? I think not.
Eh? You’ve missed the references? Cuneiform was the writing of Mesopotamia, on clay tablets, before they imported Egyptian papyrus from the marshes of the Nile. Gallifrey is in my computer spell checker, as is that time machine called the Tardis, that blue telephone box owned by the mad man on the BBC’s Doctor Who. Unlike Gallifrey, the Tardis is also in my Oxford dictionary as a proper noun. As for “blue box,” that’s searchable on the Internet. Cool, eh?
As we all circle through time you might well ask, “What is the meaning of life?” I don’t know, but I can say that Paul Graham, a web-essayist and computer-millionaire, says he spends his money on experiences rather than material possessions. Makes sense. I keep a journal to etch in my experiences. Call me a nerd, but I’d rather experience watching Doctor Who on TV than own a widget. I’m so glad I experienced going to London… and going on a Doctor Who walking tour.
Two folks from Saskatchewan, who had been to the same prairie conventions as I, were on the tour. On a bridge over the Thames they had me use their camera while they held up a green Roughriders flag. Of course they held up their sonic screwdrivers, too.
A week later I went on a walking tour for Jack the Ripper. As three of us gathered for the tour—the other two were from Leeds and Birmingham—we talked; we discovered we were all “Whovians”: fans of “the doctor.” And when our guide showed up, a fun young blond with a little child at home, you can imagine our delight when she arrived wearing blue Tardis earrings!
Of course I would have gone to the Who Shop anyways, but our Jack the Ripper guide said to be sure not to miss it, as there is a BBC props museum concealed in the back. For charity. You enter through the Tardis, with the inside walls filled with circles, of course, and you discover, of course, that “it’s bigger on the inside.” I’m happy to say I had my picture taken using a key to the Tardis, and then stepping through the door. The donated props included three Daleks, and the costume worn by Vincent Van Gogh. Later I picked up Van Gogh stuff in the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.
I regret to say that two items I had crossed the wide Atlantic to find were NOT, alas, in the Who Shop, (Nor at Forbidden Planet) but at least I could buy some T-shirts and CDs. My wall space at home is all filled up, so I didn’t buy a black and white portrait of a young Victorian lady over the caption, “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.” Of her line, if you know the scene, you could say: “It was beautiful, and it was sad.”
As for T-shirts: Alas, a French T-shirt of the soufflé girl in her red dress, “C’est fille impossible,” was one size too big for me. I deeply sympathize with how she courageously held off all those Daleks, for so long, all alone. If it were me, I would go mad.
And now, memory intact, as I am circling through the void, what keeps me sane are the shows I watch, the people I see and the folks I touch through my blog.
Cherishing my experiences
In Ian Brown’s (journalist, married, with children) recent memoir-diary of the year he was age sixty, he notes that he had somehow lost track of two decades, although he wasn’t quite sure which two. I can relate.
As a partial remedy for “lost decades” I like the Simplicity Journal. It comes with a ribbon bookmark, and a pen loop, complete with pen. Each two page spread includes a quarter page with lines for writing: Something that touched my heart; Something Good; Something Funny; Lesson Learned; Challenges; and Thoughts for the day.
Music of Doctor Who
Fans of the doctor make Youtube clips of TV scenes with music.
In a song, the purpose of a chorus is like having a TV news anchor: To have the comfort of returning to something known. When I’m shaving, I like to hear the following (linked) three videos, in succession. Maybe for you these repetitive songs, without any chorus, would seem awfully boring. But not to me, not when I am deeply moved by the episodes the songs are from.
* “Abigail’s Song” by Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins, live stage version. She played Abigail in a Christmas episode. It’s actually NOT the version I play, but for mine the fan video clips might reveal too much plot to you.
* “The Long Song” with still photos from the episode where religious people sing. Their song had been constantly sung for generations to keep a mighty god asleep… but in the end they sing to wake the god up! The sad, defiant words at the end were by the doctor, about his long, lonely life as the last of his kind. He often tries to have human companions with him so he doesn’t go mad… (also to make sure he doesn’t become emotionally closed off and dead to the universe)
*In Latin, here’s the song the gentle Ood sing for the tenth doctor to honour and comfort him at the end of his story.
…bonus Youtube: If you don’t mind stills that reveal the episode, then here is the sympathetic song “Chances,” performed by Athlete, with lyrics, from the episode where they give some aide and comfort to the greatest painter who ever lived. Don’t worry, the episode doesn’t show Vincent’s untimely death, but commenters who have seen the episode say they cry.