The most significant characteristic of the commute is the way it creates a physical distance between the personal and the professional, between home and work.
These are set periods of time where you have physically moved out of the personal and which do not invite the professional – unless you own a Blackberry or are of a work-proud masochistic mindset. For twenty minutes to eighty-five – depending on your fortune, fate or choice of transport – you have a space for thought and reflection that could look back upon home or forward toward work, and vice versa. Or it could be a space for something else.
Obliged to exist within the commute, every commuter has a choice as to how to use their time.
Interlude: according to Sartre the phrase “I have/had no choice” is not entirely accurate. We more often try to avoid the consciousness of our own freedom by not making choices, or rather choosing the path of least consequence: collaboration, resistance, or quiet self-preservation. But there is always the ultimate choice.
Unlike Sunday morning services (oh dear God, have I genuinely chosen to get up early for church?) or Sunday evening services (I could be watching trashy tv on the sofa) or weekday home group/cell meetings (another evening spent with people I try hard to like and try harder to respect), this is a no man’s land of space and time that could very easily be given to God.
This is the essence of commuter theology. This is what I should be looking for in the faces, expressions and habits of my neighbours. How many people are beseiged by their doubts, worries and fears? How many take time to reflect on good memories, meetings set and achievements reached? Who in my vicinity wants a glittering career, who would prefer a happy family life, and who is taking stock of their faith?
I ask more questions than I can answer. At any given moment I’m not sure I can answer my own.