Nobody really gets on the Subway expecting to be inspired. It's morning and you've got to get to work, you're not quite awake and already dreading the workday. There are no available seats because the train is packed with other commuters and there's no room for you to read the paper so you look around at the ads and signs in your car. There's often the old Dr. Z ad for skin care, and usually a Delta ad or one of those pictures of the super-orange kids on a beach trying to convince you to go to the Bahamas. Then, tucked away between an ad for laser hair treatment and a community college, there might be a "Train of Thought" quote, a series sponsored by the MTA to, I guess, enlighten and inspire its riders. Hmmm... Maybe that's where my 2 bucks a ride is going?
Anyway, the quotes are always interesting, thought provoking, but often rather pessimistic. For example: "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing entirely straight can be built." -Immanuel Kant. That's not exactly what I want to think about on my way to work in a giant city, surrounded by both said crooked human timber and the incredibly large buildings built by them.
Then one day I looked up and read, "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect." And that was it. I was like, "What?!" The quote is the opening line of Kafka's famous book, The Metamorphosis, and it is definitely a thought-provoking, interesting line, but really? On my morning commute do I want to be thinking about someone who has just woken up in an insect's body? Or, if I do, I really want to know the rest of the story--just the one line is much too tantalizing. And then I start thinking about how I am like one little ant in a huge ant colony, and every day I have to go do my job like all the other worker ants while somewhere the big fat queen gets to just lay egg and eat bon bons all day.
So, as if this isn't depressing enough, I just read that the Atheists are rolling out an ad campaign for the New York subways in which they will ask, "A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?" The New York Times article I read says that atheism is on the rise in New York, so I think it's kind of strange that the Atheists are suddenly advertising. They seem to be good without advertising. I don't really care about the ads, though, because when I see them I will just answer in my head, "No, not really," and I will have been reminded about how much I rely on God in my life. And then I will look over at the Kafka quotation again and start feeling like bugs are crawling on me.