Air Travel Unlearning

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Course Ideas

Last night I put on my air traveler temporarily delayed in a strange airport hat when one of those nebulous “mechanical problems” you hear about over the loudspeakers stymied the local maintenance crew for several hours.  We all know what most likely transpired…  A seatback got jammed slightly out of vertical, and despite the best efforts of three suddenly religious would-be body builders, the offending mechanism could not be convinced.  When the crackerjack troubleshooters finally conceded that circumstances required something just beyond their means, the “situation” was upgraded to a “maintenance condition”.  A numerical code was transmitted at light speed across seventeen states through a combination of glass fibers and copper wires, to which a reply code was dispatched by the airline company’s servers approximately thirteen milliseconds later.

Simultaneously, the airline company’s servers sent out three additional transmissions: the first, to the nearest seatback depot, twelve hundred miles away, where a shiny new shrink-wrapped seatback oscillated eerily in place for a moment, like a pack of cupcakes in a vending machine, before face-planting onto a rubber conveyor belt; the second, to the maintenance hangar located about three hundred yards from where I was seated, instructing the mechanics to locate a tiny, oddly hooked wrench whose singular reason for existing was to dismantle jammed seatbacks from their aluminum flotation device containing bases; and the third, to the gate attendant standing six feet away, conveying the message that the flight would be delayed approximately one half an hour for maintenance, and that all of our connecting flights looked good.

Very good.

In the information vacuum of an air travel delay, these types of stories spontaneously arise in our minds.  We need to know what is happening, and if nobody can tell us, we make it up.  At a minimum, we want to know what has gone wrong and what is being done about it, and in some urgent cases we also want to know who is to blame and what is being done about them, too.

Some people assume that a fleet of well-intentioned people, scattered around the country and hopelessly mired in a system whose logistics are understood only by helium-cooled computers located in deep underground bunkers, are doing the best they can and wrestling with the system’s daemons on our behalf.  Others interpret the events to imply that the particular airline has deep-seated character flaws- as well as, by extension, everyone associated with it.  Some roll with the punches.  Others are ready to launch a frontal assault on the nearest customer service desk.  Most people are simply bemused and frustrated.

If things get out of hand, we threaten vigilante justice: we unleash the one power we know we possess, the power to place the offending airline on our personal blacklist…  We tell ourselves it’s the type of decision on which our economy depends.  If nobody took a stand to “vote” against bad businesses, there’s no way things could improve.  It’s our sacred duty to express our righteous indignation.

* * * * *

In the information vacuum of our lives, what do we tell ourselves is really happening in this world?  What do we imagine is going on behind the scenes?  Do we imagine a beneficent dynamic is at work?  No dynamic at all?  Do we trust that things are well and good in a way that we cannot quite personally fathom at the time?  Or do we imagine we’re careening headlong for disaster?  Do we imagine we are powerless to influence the course of events?

Is reality simply the reality we take a face value: a meaningless concatenation of events and circumstances?   Are all of our interpretations, whether positive, negative or indifferent, just the inconsequential luxuries of an intellect that is vastly over-powered for the navigation of a world where what you see is what you get?  Do our interpretations of events have any real connection with what is happening?

* * * * *

I think often about what I see as the promise offered by A Course of Miracles and A Course of Love- an effortless way of being that is immune to the experience of threat or loss.  When our last resistance crumbles, we rediscover the truth that Love is Reality- the Reality of what is happening and the Reality of who we are.  Both, at the same time.  There are no scenes to see behind.  We are behind the scenes.  We are both behind the scenes and the scenes themselves.  We are healed of this fundamental fracture in our apprehension of self and knowledge, of this tiny rift we can’t put outside of ourselves however we may try, that whispered once long ago, there is something outside of you, something you are not.

Ever since then, we’ve been on edge.  Everything that happens is the potential influx of this dreaded something else into the lives we have fashioned and would defend.  The stories, identities and meanings we have made to fill the limitless space in which we dwell are threatened, and- if we’re deeply honest- threaten-able.  Until we reunite with Knowledge.

The Knowledge that there is no such thing as something else puts a massive kink in the notions we have accepted about this universe and our place within it.  As both Courses assert, this Knowledge is not a belief.  Knowing transcends beliefs and needs them not.

* * * * *

Until we accept this Knowledge, we are still trembling- perhaps very deep down, perhaps deeper than we wish to consciously pursue today- in fear of the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we are not Real.  And so long as we carry around this idea deep within ourselves that there could be something else, that maybe we are not Real, that is what we will find.  If there really were something else, if there really were someone on the other side from us, some force or person or will with which or with whom we could ever be at odds, then what would it look like?  What would it feel like?

It would look and feel like air travel.  It would look and feel like grid-locked traffic in the sweltering heat.  It would look and feel like powerful and destructive storms.  It would look and feel like shattered relationships, like trade embargoes, like warring factions, like office politics, like class struggles, like generation gaps, like barriers we can’t cross, and… you know all the other words and examples that could be appended here.

This is how we teach ourselves- we who are both behind the scenes and the scenes themselves- of what it would be like to exist in a Reality where there is also something else.  This is how we teach ourselves the implications of a choice to try and be something else.

And as we question whether or not things must necessarily be this way, we teach and are taught in a new way.  We unlearn the answers we have so long supplied, and in which we have believed, to meaningless questions like: what if there were really something else?


  1. I would be interested in your elaboration of something else. The descriptive skill you used in the first few paragraphs on the airplane thing was cool. You could take “something else”, apply the same skill and hit it out of the park. That could be very interesting. Neat stuff. Thanks.


    • Thanks! Not sure this is what you had in mind, but I gave the exploration of “something else” a whirl today. This one’s for you!



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