Thursday, 20 January 2011

Carpet diem

Here's this thing that I thought up when I was little, and I still love it today. It comes to mind so often that I've had chance to colour it in and embroider it many times over the years.

Last night at home group we discussed how we saw life; a rollercoaster, a journey, a test...and so on. I wasn't sure I had a picture of what life is like, but I was fascinated by other people's ideas. It came to me much later yesterday evening when we'd changed subject that I did have an idea, and it was the one that'd been with me since I was small.

It's this: life is like kicking a carpet.  Bear with me. 

There's this roll of carpet - only about two or three feet wide, sort of like a stair carpet, that you unroll ahead of you as you walk along. There's some artistic licence here as the carpet never gets any smaller and doesn't start out that big, it sort of magically unrolls in front of you. You do have to put some effort in but it's not actually as hard as actually kicking an actual carpet, if you see what I mean. 

I suppose you think I'm off my rocker.  Still, I shall press on...

So this carpet has a pattern and everyone's pattern is different - your own is very familiar, even when the pattern changes as it does at different times in life.  Sometimes it's brightly coloured, cheerful, intricate pattern, and at other times dull, muted or dark colours or plain with blocks of different shades.  Sometimes it even had strands of gold and silver in it, like shining threads. Sometimes the pattern has a symmetry, sometimes it's muddled up and abstract. Sometimes you like it, sometimes you don't.  Likewise the weave of the carpet varies - for a time it's thick, lush and rich in it's pile, and then later worn, threadbare, sparse.  Smooth and then knobbly.  Silky and bristly. As you go through life the carpet changes from day to day, hour to hour, and yet you keep going, kicking it along in front of you. You can do this without breaking stride.  (There's that licence again).

There are times when you're running, dancing along, and the carpet is unrolling effortlessly, times when you're plodding, trudging with head down, and those times keeping it moving in front of you seems almost impossible, but you carry on. You can never see where you're going; it's as if you're unrolling your carpet through space - three dimensional space, where there are ups and downs - uphills and downhills.  Bits of the journey are brightly lit and other bits so shadowy that you can barely make out the shape of your feet on the your carpet. 

The destination is unknown but you keep walking towards it. It will be worth it when you get there.

The interesting thing is that you're not alone during this walk - you can see other people unrolling their carpets, too. Everyone in the world has a carpet. Some are in the distance - a long long way away, and they're obscured, blurry - you can't see much of their carpet so you don't know what colours or patterns they have; you just get a glimpse.  These are the people who you might encounter for a brief moment.  Have you ever sat on a train and seen someone walking their dog in a field alongside the track? Or driven past someone in a window of a house? They're the people who come in to view for a second.  You see a stranger and wonder about their life - who are they? What are they worried about? Are they happy?  Their carpet comes near yours just for a moment and then they're gone and you never know. Other people come alongside for a while - they walk alongside you for a time, or they meet you and overlap, and then they're gone in a different direction.   (The analogy sort of comes unstuck in places as in this flight of fancy you can turn corners more easily than you'd be able to if you actually were unrolling a carpet).  Sometimes you see the same person back again. 

Then in this journey you're on, one or two people kick their carpets along with you. They're alongside, and they stay there.  Their carpet is so close that the edges of theirs and yours touch - sometimes they're so close that the edges wrinkle up against each other making a ridge.  But there might be a special person whose carpet fits yours perfectly. You're pretty much in step.  The weave and pattern on the carpets side by side are synchronised with each other. Sometimes you can't tell where your carpet ends and theirs starts, and sometimes they look very different. Sometimes they leave you behind and you struggle to catch up, and sometimes they're dawdling when you want to skip. But they're parallel with you.

Occasionally it seems as if someone's carpet is nicer than yours.  They seem to have an easier time getting theirs to unroll. The pattern is brighter or more to your taste. It seems thicker, nicer to walk on. Likewise, sometimes other people's carpets appear inferior to yours; you're glad you're on your carpet and not theirs. You can't swap - you can't even step off yours onto theirs - so you can never really tell what it's like on their carpet, and they can't know what it feels like to be on yours. 

Now and again you notice that someone you were used to travelling with isn't there any more. You're so used to seeing them there but one day you realise that they're gone. Their carpet has run out. You know it has gone but you still can't tell what's at the end. You look back and the carpet just ends in space. I don't know what happens to the person kicking it along as you never seem to witness the exact moment it ends, you just see that it is no longer unravelling. What happened to the person whose carpet it was? Did they realise that it was going to end when it did? Maybe they noticed that the carpet was finally getting smaller?  Maybe it just vanished.  Then what?  I don't know.  Haven't got this bit figured out in my little fantasy. Neither do I know what's at the end of mine - or when it might end.  It seems to me that there's plenty of carpet left at the moment...

But I think the end of the carpet might be quite ornate - like something fantastic and awe inspiring from a  Renaissance tapestry.  Or maybe just a bit of brocade and a tassle.  Or it gets thinner and thinner until it's no longer there.  But it's what happens when you finally step off the carpet that I want to know about. I know it's not thin air - there'll be ground beneath my feet that is more solid than it has ever been when I've been unrolling my carpet through space. Maybe there'll be a pattern that is so beautiful that it defies description; or maybe I'll no longer walk but jump and fly!  

My imagination isn't big enough.

So that's life. It's a journey, yes.  It goes up and down like a rollercoaster, yes.  I sometimes feel I'm in a race, yes. But it's a carpet, unrolling, unrolling. A beautiful, unique carpet that only I can walk on. I've got to keep it going. 

Till one day it will stop. In a heartbeat. Done. 

And then I'll know what's beyond the carpet.  It's going to be amazing. 

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