WHAT an absolute cracker of a "Doctor Who" episode.
When I first heard "Doctor Who" was returning in early 2005, I snorted in derision. Never be as good as the previous series, I said to anyone who would listen. I was wrong. Even then, I didn't learn: I voiced the same doubts when David Tennant was chosen to replace Christopher Eccleston, whose darker, more chaotic depiction of the Doctor had completely won me over.
Wrong again. Tennant is now my favourite Doctor by light-years, an absolutely quintessential mixture of light and dark, zany humour and deathly seriousness, light-hearted laughter and immense power.
But I digress. Back to the cracker of an episode.
It begins with Donna (his current companion) and the Doctor in a far Eastern market. They are separated, then Donna is drawn into a fortune-teller's tent and forced to go back to change the moment that led to her meeting the Doctor - she listens to her mother and turns right instead of left. In that moment, she is swept into an alternate universe.
The Doctor's death and alien-ridden catastrophe that follow her moment of self-doubt (in the original moment, she overrode her mother's mockery of her desire to work somewhere posh by saying, "They haven't met me.") is beyond imagination.
It was a powerful reminder of how our ordinary decisions can have cosmic consequences. We often seem surprised by this, but we shouldn't be. We make thousands of tiny decisions every day: singly and cumulatively, they shape our lives by the paths we choose to walk and the doors we choose to open or close. The ordinary choice that stands out in my mind is the one my cousin made 23 years ago, when she reluctantly agreed to go along and meet this guy her friend had met on the beach and ended up marrying him - 20 years and still counting.
Our lives, loves and stories are made up of the everyday things that we discount so easily. It's so easy to see how the big decisions - degree, career, marriage, having children - change our paths, but we miss the whole pattern; how all the small decisions lead up to the larger ones...the small changes in direction that suddenly mean we're going north instead of east. Funnily enough, only hours before the episode I was doing an exercise from "Steering by Starlight" by Martha Beck which requires you to live your life backwards, going through all the decisions you've made that have brought you those things you hold most dear. I was struck afresh with appreciation and awe of how my life had been shaped through those seemingly innocuous choices.
Innocuous though they may seem, the confluence of those ordinary decisions can make us extraordinarily important. Later in the episode, Rose Tyler (a former companion of the Doctor) tells Donna she is the most important person in creation and that events have been bending around her since she was born, echoing Robert Jordan's idea of ta'veren: "a person around whom the Wheel of Time weaves all surrounding life-threads, perhaps ALL life-threads, to form a Web of Destiny."
Donna scoffs, but any one of us can be the ta'veren in the centre of a web of destiny at any given time. We all live more meaningful lives and have a bigger effect on the Pattern than we can ever know. When we realise that, we understand what Rachel Remen meant when she said we are always on holy ground. Knowing that, it becomes essential that we are true to ourselves and that we live every moment of our lives consciously and with reverence.
How to do this? I think we need to become fully present in each moment: listen deeply, love deeply, dive all the way into our lives rather than skimming the surface, so that we know what's real. Live your life all the way minute by minute, not halfway waiting for something big to come along. By doing that, we connect to the part of ourselves that is more than the sum of our parts. We begin to know those everyday decisions for the pathmakers that they are and allow our deepest self to guide us through intuition. We begin to have soul.
So, when the time comes to make a decision, and you've listened to your soul and know what's true no matter what everyone else is saying, set your face like flint. Don't blink. Don't even blink.
Don't turn your back. Don't look away. AND DON'T BLINK.
Then, take a deep breath...
...and turn left.