“There is a vessel in your world where the days of my life are pressed together like the chapters of a book, so that he may step from one to the other without increase of age, while I, weary traveller, must always take the slower path.”
So says Reinette, aka Madame de Pompadour, in Doctor Who’s “The Girl in the Fireplace,” one of the most beloved David Tennant episodes. It would have been excellent if only for the reprise of the Doctor’s infamous quote “bananas are good,” it would have been excellent if only for the Doctor smashing through a mirror on a horse.
But its excellence also comes from notion of the nature of time travel as illustrated in typically absurd, kinda awkward-but-awesome Doctor Who style. As any Whovian knows, the Doctor and companions Rose and Mickey find themselves on a ship full of windows into different parts of Reinette’s life. The reason is sinister and complicated and involves French clockwork droids (just go with it), but it is the emotions here that take center stage.
Reinette is a brilliant one-off heroine who challenges the Doctor and perceives life with an insight that amazes even him–what it means to grasp it and seize its opportunities, ever mindful of the awful horrors it also entails.
After all, this is the episode that brought us that other wonderful quote: “It’s the way it’s always been. The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other.” Of course that doesn’t mean that you hopelessly despair and have neither. As she says, “You and I both know, don’t we Rose? The Doctor is worth the monsters… One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.”
This balance of life’s heights and life’s depths is poignant and of course can’t end too merrily for all involved, but hey, at least the clockwork droids don’t dismantle Rose.
The end also calls back Reinette’s journey through time when she says the path has never seemed so slow but she fears she is nearing its end. It’s a tragic irony for the Doctor when he finds out that she has died–her life was short but slow, his is long but constantly on the move.
You are left wondering–for all his adventures, was Reinette’s life actually more full? She is portrayed as accomplished in many fields, as kind and thoughtful, and as the Doctor’s match in many ways despite her limited experience. Maybe even more impressively, she has a heck of a lot of poise–poise in the face of horrible danger.
Such are the thoughts that come to you as you attempt yin yoga (you knew we’d get to yoga eventually). In this style, you hold poses for what feels like a ridiculously long time. It’s long enough that the novelty wears off and long enough that your body does a lot of whining from muscles and nerves and joints used to movement.
I’m the kind of person who is constantly flitting from one thing to the next–propelled constantly forward by equal parts fascination and, if I’m honest, fear of staying still. What happens if you stop moving for a minute? What horrors will you contemplate? What insignificance do you peek at? If you get off the rails of the train of your life, where are you?
My favorite yoga class is the very different vinyasa yoga, in which you “flow” fairly quickly from one pose to the next. In vinyasa you keep up the pace, feel constantly stimulated mentally and physically, and generally get a workout. I’m pretty sure the Doctor would agree with me in my preference–in the episode “The Power of Three” he has to wait around with his companions the Ponds and goes nuts cleaning, playing soccer, and generally just living a human day. And he’d be the last one to want to contemplate the horrors of the things he’s seen.
But yoga isn’t all about the workout and it’s just possible life isn’t about hustling from one thing to the next, Doctor-style. Life is balance between quiet and noise, between hustle and hush, between the Doctor and the monsters. I think it’s ok and even crucial to think about that, you won’t necessarily fall into the abyss–whether that’s in yin yoga or meditation or just in a moment of being off of your phone. In fact, you might emerge with a fuller, richer life like the insightful Reinette. And if she can do it with a shipful of killer clockwork droids after her, you can too.