“It’s a wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in everyone of them encloses it’s own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood on ignorance on the shore.” -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I recently finished reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for two reasons:
1. I love great literature.
2. I aspire to write well.
A Tale of Two Cities is the world-wide #1 best selling, excluding books of faith, such as the Bible or Koran. With my two reasons in mind, I figured this classic book would be a good read, and I was right, but I’m not going to talk about the book. This isn’t a book blog; it’s a processing one, and I wish to process this quote in reference.
Chapter 3 of Book 2 speaks of this phenomenon of humans being eternal puzzles, mysteries to be discovered, but never fully known. Regardless of how long or how intimate you know someone, you’ll never know them fully. Two people could be married for 50 years, divulging themselves to each other continuously, and there will still be mysteries locked up in the depths of that person. One can NEVER be fully known.
In another book by Donald Miller, called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald speaks to a friend who recently married. The friend shares how marriage is the oddest of things. You find yourself waking up to someone you care so much about, yet you will never fully know.
The author coins the phrase “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” in regards to life, and angels driving you through the universe to bring you to where you always belonged–but it doesn’t make the journey any less easy in the moment.
Although the phrase isn’t mine, I’d like to think about it in a completely different light. No matter how far you travel into someone’s soul or how long your foot has been pushing down on the gas, even if it’s a million miles or a thousand years, you will NEVER discover all their landscapes.
To some, this may be discouraging. What’s the point of knowing someone?
But it is of the exact opposite nature that this author has been affected by this strain of thought. I have been encouraged, like never before, to know people intimately, to discover their depths, to explore their shores, knowing full I will never be able to map an atlas of their soul with complete detail. But isn’t that the joy? The people around you are infinity. No matter how long or intensely you dive into their being, there will always be more.
The fathoms stretch before you, there is an eternal horizon, that will never come nearer.
Do we abandon ship, counting our losses, understanding this voyage is doomed never reach conclusion? Or does that inspire us to let loose the sails, caught up by the winds of destiny and dive headlong into the eternal leagues before us?
These thoughts will forever haunt those fixated on the destination, but in the words of my granola, hiker friends, attempting to comfort me as I heave and moan from the ascent, “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.”
Life. People. A hike. It’s all about the journey. Stop and smell the roses.