you're eating sushi on the platform of Birmingham New St. you're sitting in the sun. you're waiting for the 14.00 to London Euston. you're coming back from a training exercise on participatory development. you've been inside for 2 days. brilliant sun is shining on the platform, as on the buildings of birmingham uk - the so called bullring throngs with shoppers and the selfridge's building by future systems its button clad exterior and exposed services do not diminish if anything emphasize the contents - in a few minutes you'll be shooting backwards down the track on the way to london euston where you left your bicycle chained on friday the landscape shoots backwards the person you're sitting next to seems anxious, rigid, clutching their bag. staring out the window. you may be smelling of fish as you shoot backwards. your mind returns to the empty room where your colleagues, whom you had never met and you'll never meet again, were gathered from all parts of the uk and holland - where they have all returned - before they are shot out like pellets across the globe: to China, Tajikhistan, Malawi - in the same way that you will be shot out like a pellet to Tanzania, along with the pellets of your family - all 5 of you, in an illusion, in effect, of intention, along with those other workshop pellets, plus the other hundred or in fact thousands of pellets shot out across the globe by vso to places you have next to no understnding of and never will, not to speak of your own roles and motivations, your own issues the way every person in that room can be seen to have a major issue or issues sitting so transparently on their shoulder - your obsession with the so called non monolithic composition of cultures - Bill Chapman's obsession with language - Barbara's obsession with building relationships, or something - big stones, as Tracy was saying in the taxi to the station, covered in stickit notes - piles of literal stones collected from the garden, labelled with postit notes and weighed - piled and then weighed in massive heaps of blockages - blocks and helps, she said - more helps than blocks, she said, surprisingly, in the taxi, on her way back to her refugee job in swansea to support her elderly isolated parents, so newly divorced, making a long term placement out of the question, the mind goes back, as you wait to be shot forward
you're on the 14.00 the pendolino passing through a deep cutting after a long deep cutting you look out over the area of your own family after a period of dislocation - you follow a canal and pass a cemetery, graves sparkling in the october sunshine - the canal continues for some way with canal boats and people on the towpaths ony now turning definitively away - time, for Levinas, is not the achievement of an isolated subject, time is the very relationships of the subject with the Other. you have slowed right down. the person beside you has finished their long phone conversation with their friend, in which they say they are going somewhere they hate while they wait for their husband to sort out their paperwork, asking, meanwhile, for their friend to keep an eye on their mum. they've been on the train for 3 hours from wolverhampton. no longer clutching the bag on their knee, they have buried their hands in the pockets of a thick black coat, leaving an area of one wrist visible as you enter Watford Junction. Through sight, touch, sympathy and cooperative work, we are with others. All these relationships are transitive: I touch an object, I see the other. But I am not the other, writes Levinas. I am all alone.