I hardly ever watch television. There’s not even a TV in my house. But through a series of very unlikely occurrences there is one show that simply captured my heart (or hearts, if you know what I mean).
A British series about an ancient time-travelling alien who flies through space in a bigger-on-the-inside phone box; saving worlds, having adventures, meeting friends, and losing them. It sounds bizarre, but there’s a bit of the bizarre in me as well, so I like it. I mean, it’s wonderful. Okay, basically, I love this show. (I could talk a lot longer about its nuances, but as we joke around here… it’s not in the cards.)
The next instalment premiers on Saturday. And I, in all my Whovian splendour… will not be watching it.
Yeah, so that doesn’t really make sense. When I love something to the point of distraction, why would I choose to keep it at a distance? Because there’s a danger in distraction; a threat inherent in pleasurable diversion. I’m not really sure why I’m telling you this, but perhaps it’s because I still don’t understand it all myself.
I have this way of loving sometimes. There are a lot of passion-channels in my heart, and my feelings flow like sand to tip scales and power my days. I tiptoe like a tightrope walker trying to balance it all. Open a channel wide enough, and all the energy of my soul comes pouring through; the sand piles into dunes and the sea comes striding in with a roar. Sometimes I need that oceanic passion- that biggerontheinside vortex that sweeps me high and fast beyond the world. But sometimes… sometimes I need to calm my starstruck eyes and remember the world. I need to balance. It’s good to give passion the reigns on occasion, but it’s important to make sure it’s not wearing blinders.
People and causes, beliefs and ambitions… my passion has focused on many of these. There were the summer musicals which made me want to only ever be at practice. The tournaments that left me lonesome. The friends, the plans, the wishes, the wanderlust. But then there were the stories. Stories that fill and burst and grow and make me hurt inside. Stories that are alive. It began with The Chronicles of Narnia and imagining Aslan leaping out at every deer crossing. My mom read aloud to us and I listened with every single cell I possessed and sometimes after she had finished I snuck to the shelf and read ahead when she wasn’t looking. When we finished the series I bought my own set of the books and read from it almost daily for I don’t know how long. After that, it was The Lord of the Rings and pretending to be Elvish and writing my name in runic letters. I devoured the movies, the music, the Silmarillion, the Books of Lost Tales, and took dictation from recordings of Tolkien reading his work. Stories get inside me and never leave, never die. Peter Pan, The Borrowers, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Phantom of the Opera, Robin Hood…. I’m a writer, but I don’t write stories; they write me. I’ll bet somebody’s said that before.
Anyway, it’s kind of weird. I can cry myself to sleep over fictional characters because there’s a part of me where they’re always real. I write poems about them, I sketch them in my journal, I follow them to see what happens next. Doctor Who is a heart-pounding, heart-warming, heart-wrenching story; full of characters that are so alive a single glance can make me sob or soar cloud-high. Joy and sorrow are woven inseparable and it’s beautiful, awful, masterful. And so different: most stories see the characters through a few trials and suffering and pain, but you know that in the end, it’s going to be happy. Doctor Who sees its characters through some excitement and camaraderie and happiness, but you know that in the end, it’s going to be sad. You end up asking yourself the question asked and answered by the Doctor: “What’s the point of them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later? And the answer is, “Because they are going to be sad later.”
It hurts. It’s brilliant, but it hurts. And that’s why people like it- because it makes you feel. But for me, a few feelings are the few grains of sand that trigger an avalanche. And while it’s exciting to live so many lives, I don’t want to do it at the expense of my own. When the floodgates of my passion are let loose, when so much soul-energy pours down one channel, I forget. When I’m mentally travelling in the TARDIS, I forget to watch my baby sister grow up. While I’m musing over the significance of mysterious characters, I forget to study the people I see every week. While I’m saving worlds with the Doctor, I forget to save my own.
And so it’s all about balance, once again. Loving the stories but living MY life. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “I am all for going to fairyland, but I am also all for coming back. That is, I will admire, but I will not be magnetised, either by mysticism or militarism.” And that’s why I’m taking a break from Doctor Who for a while. Learning what it means to come back.