From Xi’an to Tianshui there are 36 tunnels, ranging from 100m to 12 290 m long.  The journey through the tunnel interrupts reading, or seeing the countryside.  Our eyes become focused on the lines, the lights and looking for the end of the tunnel.  When we reach that end the world changes.  We’ve traversed from one side of the mountain to the other, new vistas open before us – or another tunnel.

If we stop looking for the end of the tunnel and focus on the tunnel itself, then we can see other things.  Each 20m on the right hand side has a box fire fighting equipment; about 1/4 the length of the tunnel is a pedestrian escape tunnel, and at 20m intervals there are lit signs directing which way to travel – forward or back – to the nearest exit.  half-way along there is a car exit, into the tunnel beside.

The long tunnels have air movers on the roof to take away the build-up of exhaust gases.  The longest tunnel had a section growing plants under artificial lights.

All of this thought and technology goes into building tunnels, and yet all we want to do is be out and on the other side of them, looking for the new vista, the new experience, out of the dark, away from limited vision, leaving the old behind.  We don’t realise the importance of the tunnel, the things it can teach us and show us if we look.

I see this much the same in our lives.  We hit bad periods, dark tunnels in our life, where we feel closed in, lose our creativity or inspiration, bad things happen to us, we can’t see ahead of us and all we want is for the dark to go away, for a new life to appear before us.  We want this tunnel to end NOW.

But working our way through that tunnel is important.  Looking for what it can teach us or show us is important.  If we focus on the end of the tunnel, then we miss what the dimmer light can show us, we learn nothing about the construction of the tunnel or the reasons for the things within it.

Without the tunnels we would be slowly edging our way round the edges of mountains.  The tunnels take us to the same place more quickly, more directly.  We may need to suffer through the dark lengths of them, but the emergence into the bright light energises again.

The tunnels will finish, we will arrive at the destination and we will have learned more about the tunnels we must pass through.