I’m a big Downton Abbey fan and recently read the interview its creator, Julian Fellowes, gave to Vanity Fair. In it, the signal theme of the drama is described as “going through doors.” Each episode’s story line involves one or more characters moving from one place to another, literally, figuratively and often times both.
This movement mirrors the transitions going on in British society and culture after World War I. At that time, just as it is today, profound change was slamming into institutions, belief systems and values, leaving the show’s characters feeling like that swatted pinball a later Brit would write about in his tragic rock opera, Tommy.
All is not lost, however. Downton Abbey suggests that passing through doors is an effective, albeit sometimes messy way to deal with disruptive change. It is a grandly optimistic theme that celebrates personal movement to accommodate and even benefit from change.
The goal is not to go along with the flow, however, but rather to use its momentum to sustain one’s own personal growth. These passages are not movement for movement’s sake, but the intentional transition from one state to another. Such a strategy is the antithesis of the single greatest threat to our wellbeing in a time of turbulence: habit – letting ourselves be lulled into comfortable but deluded stasis.
Movement has sustained the Crawleys of Downton Abbey when many of their peers were losing hearth and home in the shifting sands of the 20th Century, and it will sustain each and all of us as we negotiate our careers in the 21st Century world of work.
Thanks for reading,