Air travel has always been an exciting adventure for me. I love to people watch in the terminals, watching the small groupings of people: families with small children that seemingly have a major fraction of their entire household over their shoulders, their eyes bloodshot and half lidded as they follow their toddler through the chairs of people, business men and women dressed in their fitted black suits, pressed and efficient, their travelling down to a science and a small neat bag, young children with fear in their eyes and a plastic unaccompanied envelope around their neck, sitting close to the gangway and the comfort of the airline staff, young love either newly married or recently so, their hands, lips and attention directednentirely on the other, oblivious to their surroundings, the young adult in college gear, his backpack full in the seat beside him, a textbook on his lap as his eyes wander in bored attention to the distractions around him. My husband and I play a guessing game, attempting to identify the scenario of travel in the groupings that pass.
Yet it’s not always fun and exciting. The long waits in security lines, groupings with far less travel experience than you that stumble through the line, needing direction for every liquid, personal computer, and shoe that needs to be removed to set on the conveyor belt. Passengers that have a stick up their butt, complaining about every proposed inconvenience; their coat that is squashed by another’s bag in the overhead compartment, a seat that doesn’t fully recline, a stranger’s leg that inadvertently touches them in the tight surroundings. It never fails that our gate is the very last on a long hallway, most often when we’re running late, which we usually are. Or that we’re seated next to a very large individual that spills over the arms of her seat, whose shower has been out of service for weeks, and considers you her long lost best friend. Or just when she’s decided to take a nap, and you’ve sighed into solitude and your current favorite book, the baby four rows back begins an ear splitting wail that can’t be comforted. Coming in for a landing, thankfully and surprisingly early, yet the plane ahead of you is still in your gate, leaving you trapped in cramped, stale air. Minutes tick by feeling like hours as your bladder fills and the stewardesses transform into prison guards to keep you buckled in your seats.
I’m not an aerodynamic scientist, nor have I studied it much so I really don’t understand the science behind airplanes. It’s always been a miracle to me that these huge planes, especially those made for international travel, can rise into the air, much less stay aloft suspended in flight. I’ve never worried about it too much, but I’ve seen many who do. One woman was seated next to me as we sat in the gate, pleasantly talking about this and that until the plane was pushed back. Then she grabbed my forearm in a death grip, asking me to “Just talk to me! Tell me about your children! Tell me what they like, what they’re doing. Just DISTRACT ME!” Her face drained of all color in her fear, as I racked my brain for details of my children to tell this stranger. No sooner were we airborn, flying in more of a horizontal plane that my arm was released and she carried on her discussion as if no time, or panic, had occurred. Some people are strange like that; they fear the worst in their ignorance, needing a person to squeeze or strangle to ease their worry.
I find religion and spirituality a bit like flying. We all travel it a bit differently. There are those that bring every piece of baggage and woe, reading every ounce of religious material, trying to devour its meaning and recipe for healing as if religion were a process to be DONE rather than experienced. Others who seemingly have it all under their belt; they can quote you quotes and give you pat answers for questions and doubts. Their religion is neat and tidy without room for uncertainties. Individuals that wear their religion like a monogrammed Tshirt, issuing forth Amens and Allelujahs, their mantra of “What Would Jesus Do” a spoken and unspoken code of conduct for themselves and others – willling or not. Personally, I’ve become one of those that travel light, open to possibility, as if looking at the possible destinations and heading towards a site that looks appealing and trusting in those that will help take me there.
But it’s not as if the travel to peace and enlightenment is without its air turbulence. People that infuriate you for their hypocrisy and meanness, as they proclaim love and Christianity. Questions that plague us with pat answers that don’t seem to fill the holes. People that want to show you The Path, as if its the only acceptable travel route and destination, believing what’s right for them is right for all. Feelings of doubt, worry, and a sense of aloneness, truly finding ourselves as “unaccompanied minors” on our spiritual paths. Those that strangle or consume their pastor with questions that are imbedded in fear of the unknown, wanting recipes for assurance in the afterlife, begging for distraction from the ongoing doubt and anxiety in their mind. Tell me stories of the Bible! Tell me what Jesus said! Distract me!!
Yet, oh, if we just allow ourselves to trust. Sit back without the need to understand the mechanics, knowing fully that the Great Pilot will take us to where we need to go. The sights we see if we die to ourselves, letting go of the need for certainties, the dogmaticism, the DOING to find peace, we’re brought to destinations beyond our imagination. Destinations we’d probably not ever dreamed of being. Seeing sights beyond our comprehension.
Find your own way to fly, whatever makes you comfortable. Don’t allow others to dictate your travel. Even if you hate flying, there’s the bus or train. It’s slower, more sights on the way….what’s the hurry?
Happy travels. 🙂