Earlier I stated I would leave the compare-and-contrast of the Three Trains of Thought to the reader. I've changed my mind. Let's review. The Three Trains are:
- Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
- The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.
- Run, Forrest! Run!
Let us begin with the Third Train: Run, Forrest! Run!
The Third Train comes from the movie Forrest Gump. The phrase is uttered when Forrest is being chased by a gang of hooligans (excuse my southern-diction). But that is not the only scene where Forrest runs. Near the end of the movie, Forrest decides to run across the nation from coast to coast. But why? Forrest explains:
That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going. When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go... you know... I went.Forrest had no reason to run. He had no purpose. Instead, he made running his reason. He believed that existence preceded essence: that his essence was created-and-chosen for-and-by himself. Forrest is his own conductor. The Third Train is Existentialism.
Next is the Second Train: The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.
This phrase is derived from the idea that life is a rat race. From wikipedia:
A rat race is a term used for an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape whilst running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy to the modern city, many rats in a single maze run around making a lot of noise bumping into each other, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually.The Second Train suggests that there is no reason. But unlike the Third, it concludes that we should not run. There is no meaning, and even the meaning derived from running itself is meaningless. So why run? Don't. It's a waste of time. There is no conductor. The Second Train is Nihilism.
Obligatory xkcd to sum up the First-Two-Trains:
Now the Last Train (that is, the First Train) pulls up to the station: Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
This phrase comes out the Bible from the book of Hebrews. What is the difference between This and the First-Two? Purpose. Running is neither purposeless, nor the purpose-itself. Running's purpose is God's purpose. His purpose: His glory. We neither create it nor choose it. But it is created-and-chosen for us. So we run, not for no-reason and not for running's sake, but we run for God. God is the conductor. The First Train is Christianity.
An analogy from my friend Isaiah:
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
And His rebuttal of the First-Two-Trains:
You turn things upside down!Who is your Conductor? Are you stationed? Or are you running?
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”?