Saturday, May 14, 2011

Runaway train

I don’t remember exactly when and how it happened, but at some point in my life, the song “Runaway train” by Soul Asylum took on a special meaning to me. The song, as I understand it, is about life and its many ups and downs (well, mostly about the downs, really, but that’s life some times) and about how, in a way, you’re always supposed to be somewhere else and you’re never quite getting there.

The title “Runaway train” actually has a nice double meaning too. It can be either a train that you get on to run away from something, or it can be a “runaway” train – a train moving out of control. And over the years, I have come to think of life itself as something of a runaway train at times. You’re always on the way somewhere, you’re never fully in control and you never really arrive at your destination. And honestly, much of the time, you’re not even sure if you’d want to! It can be scary and frustrating as hell, but somehow the wheels just keep on turning…

Call you up in the middle of the night
Like a firefly without a light
You were there like a blow torch burning
I was a key that could use a little turning

Been there, done that. No, actually, I don’t think I’ve ever called anyone up in the middle of the night except for work stuff, but there have been times when I probably should have. Anyone saying they’ve never been there is probably not telling the truth, I say.

So tired that I couldn't even sleep
So many secrets I couldn't keep
Promised myself I wouldn't weep
One more promise I couldn't keep

It seems no one can help me now
I'm in too deep
There's no way out
This time I have really led myself astray

I lead myself astray all the time. There was a time when I used to say that I rarely make the same mistake twice, but I don’t say that anymore because it’s not true! There are some mistakes that I keep repeating over and over and over. I think we all do, just in different ways. It doesn’t make us useless or horrible, it just makes us human.

Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I'm neither here nor there

And there it is.
That’s life right there.
You’re going down the tracks in a train that never stops and can never be turned around. The choices you make do have an impact on where you’re going, but you’re never fully in control. Some times you can choose which track to go down, but other times you pass switches you can’t control – perhaps without even knowing that they’re even there at the time. And some times you make mistakes. Whatever the reason, you will often find yourself having to cross mountain ranges or drive through valleys that you never really meant to be anywhere near – or going the wrong way on a one way track - without being able to stop or turn back. You’re never fully in control and life doesn’t come with a “rewind” button. Also, although your train never stops, it does pick up and drop of cargo along the way. And – you’re never truly in control of that either! Your train is loaded with all you have, all you are, all you know, all you feel, everything you have to deal with whether you want to or not – everything that’s in your life is on that train. Some times you lose something that’s really precious to you. Other times, you pick up stuff that you never really wanted anywhere within 500 miles of you – and you have to haul that around for hours, days, months. Years. And many times in your life, you will know the feeling that it seems like you should be getting somewhere, but somehow you’re neither here nor there.

Can you help me remember how to smile
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile
How on earth did I get so jaded
Life's mystery seems so faded

I can go where no one else can go
I know what no one else knows
Here I am just drowning in the rain
With a ticket for a runaway train

Everything seems cut and dry
Day and night, earth and sky
Somehow I just don't believe it

Life is hard. You were never meant to handle it all on your own. So, it’s a good thing to call for help when you need it, and more often than not, sooner is better than later. But at the same time, no matter what happens - and even though you’re never fully in control - you are the one who is in charge of your own life and ultimately responsible for fixing whatever needs fixing in it. You can never give that away or pin that on anyone else. It’s your life and you’re the only one who knows it, so you’d better believe in it or else God help you, for no one else will. Now, there may be some things in your life that can not be fixed, but that does not mean your life is broken. Remember, your train never stops. Every waking minute of every day is a new chance to do something right. Something good. Something that makes it all worth while. Never forget that. And never stop believing in it. But of course, that also means you have to do something about it every once in a while.

Bought a ticket for a runaway train
Like a madman laughing at the rain
A little out of touch, a little insane
It's just easier than dealing with the pain

Yes, it’s easier to run away. And some times it can actually be right to just leave something behind and never look back. But simply running away from every problem is not a strategy that’s going to get you anywhere you want to go. You’ll need to do better than that. You’ll need to deal with the pain to get past it. And you’ll need to solve the problems to go beyond them.

Runaway train never coming back
Runaway train tearing up the track
Runaway train burning in my veins
I run away, but it always seems the same


Your breaks are gone, your engine’s out of control, there are dangerous curves up ahead as you’re coming down out the mountains and your 2 000 ton freight train is going down the hills faster and faster and faster…

Life can be frustrating and scary as hell and some times you will crash and burn, but like I said in the beginning, as long as you keep breathing, those wheels just keep on turning…

Life is huge and incredibly complex. You will never know all there is to know about it and you’re never fully in control. But if you have faith in yourself and do some real work on it, I believe it is possible for you to keep your train moving in more or less the right direction – most of the time.

And what is the right direction? Well, that is up to you.


Hmmm… and after all that, we find that the video is actually about missing persons! I really never saw that coming! Life is full of surprises…  ;-)

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