I'm not much of a world traveler, but since I quit practicing law and went into the corporate world I find myself on a domestic flight once or twice per year.
Recently, I had to hastily arrange a trip to San Jose, CA. Due to the short notice of the trip (I had to meet with a bigwig when it fit his schedule, not mine), a limited travel budget, and my lack of travel planning acumen, I couldn't find a direct flight from Newark and ended up on a flight out of Philly that stopped in Chicago, then continued to Phoenix, where I had a two hour layover and had to change planes to finally get to San Jose. My return flight had a two hour layover in Dallas (where I had the best grilled fish taco I ever ate!)
A friend of mine, who is a much more experienced and savvy business traveler than I am, suggested that next time I take a much more easily obtained direct round trip flight to San Francisco, rent a car, and drive the 45 minutes to San Jose. Ah well, live and learn!
So once I overcame my chagrin over being such a rube, I thought about my "whistle-stop tour" of America's regional airports.
I started thinking how incredible it is that so many things in the world actually work.
The pilot was an actual human being who called out the towns we passed over, the weather, and altitude, just like when I first flew on a plane as a kid in the 1970s. This was an excellent departure from the usual list of thanks to Elite, gold, silver, platinum, preferred, preferred plus, gold star customers, or whatever ever-more-thinly-sliced spectrum of preferred customers they had.
The toilet on a plane still scares me, ever since first time I flew on a plane when I was 6 years old, on the long-defunct Eastern Airlines flight to Orlando. When I flushed there was that terrible harsh sucking whoosh and I jumped 5 feet in the air. To this day I still brace myself before I flush!
Travel, like anything else, is full of delays, rudeness, and bureaucratic numbskullery. But the fact that after spending about 10 minutes entering information online I found an entire transportation network ready to get me from one side of the continent to the other in about 8 hours is, well, almost miraculous.
How many countless people marshaled resources to get me from A to B? And all of it supported by my blind faith that all of these people, each doing their small part, would get me where I needed to go.
My religious tradition is one that has the Garden of Eden myth. This myth basically says that human beings once lived in a Paradise, and then something happened, involving two teenagers, a snake and fresh fruit, to screw it up-- with various assignments of blame handed out to all concerned.
The result? Eviction from Paradise, and our having to labor, experience pain, sickness, and ultimately the loss of everything with our own death.
I think this myth is, to use a concept from Jung, "archetypal". We all seem to be hard-wired to dream that there is a better place somewhere else "out there" that we can get to if we just do the right things, make the right decisions, say the right words, perform the right rituals, eat the right foods, read the right books, etc. From an evolutionary standpoint, this attitude probably kept us on our toes long enough to send our genes to the next generation.
But sometimes I have a different take on this myth. Particularly when I am fortunate enough to catch the world working.
I'm not an atheist, but I am not one of those "everything happens for a reason" guys either. People who think bad shit happens to some people so that other people can have a personal growth opportunity, are, to me, heartless sociopaths. And anyone who repeats that "everything happens" phrase to someone mourning the loss of a loved one is committing an evil, selfish act.
I'm not a natural-born optimist, but I wonder if, perhaps, the Paradise is actually sitting all around us. If we look between the cracks, even amidst the pain, and loss, and suffering, maybe everything we need is already here, right in front of our noses. In this present moment. In all present moments.