Saturday, July 7, 2012

Model Railroading as "Focal Practice"

I’m not working on my layout—I’m participating in a “focal practice.”

At least, that’s what I told myself today as I was slowly and methodically painting some track. I got the idea from my friend Arthur Paul Boers, who has released a new book titled Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions.

Boers. who holds the R.J. Bernardo Family Chair of Leadership at Tyndale University College & Seminary in Toronto, wrote the book to help people who feel harried and rushed by today’s high-speed culture.

“Our lives are speeding up and changing, and not always for the better,” he says about our fast-paced world.

One way to slow down, take charge and find balance in our lives is through what he calls “focal practices”—activities that centre, balance, focus, and orient our life.

For him, one of those ways is hiking—he walks a lot, including hiking the 500-mile Camino de Santigo pilgrimage in Spain. (detailed in his book The Way is Made for Walking.)

There are other ways, too, he says—things like gardening, cooking, reading, journaling and, yes, hobbies, including a hobby like model railroading. Anything that requires to slow down, take time, focus and let the rushing world pass by.

From my experience, model railroading is a great focal practice. To do it well—whether that’s building a whole layout or building models—takes time, concentration, dedication and discipline. That. plus a timeline for completion that is some time in the future and a willingness not to see results right away.

That's certainly true for my CP Rail M & M Sub. I’ve been working at it for 18 years—how many other people can say they have dedicated that much time to a single thing? It's like a 500-mile hike, only it takes a lot longer and produces fewer blisters.

So the next time someone asks if you are playing with trains, say no—you are participating in a focal practice. They might be confused, but your soul and spirit may feel better.

For more about religious imagery and symbolism in model railroading, see my post Of Tibetan Sand Mandalas and Model Railroading.

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