My dream existence

Friday, January 04, 2008

Strangers on a Plane

I almost never talk to people when I fly. A caution born of countless sad stories in the news, fear, and a sense of difference from most people prompts me to close in on myself when I travel. I retreat into my window seat with my own music and a magazine, making it clear to everyone else that I'd rather not have any personal contact with them.

On my most recent trip back to visit my parents for Christmas, a dancer preempted my typical retreat by wearing his love of life and dance on his sleeve. He'll probably never see this, but I would nonetheless like to say that I am grateful to him for restoring to me something of a sense of kinship with my fellow man, and a recognition that just because you and I are different does not mean that you are an alien (nor, for that matter, am I). There are times when we all need reminders to be human, and I certainly got mine.

I'm also grateful to him for making what is normally a barely bearable necessity an enjoyable and enriching experience. Instead of sitting in my seat looking bored, falling asleep, and refusing eye contact with my neighbors, I enjoyed a free-flowing exchange of ideas, learned a few things, and before I knew it, had passed away the entire flight without once lamenting its discomforts and trials. Thank you to the dancer who kept on talking! (And dancing) :)

Too often, it seems we pass through life in isolation, refusing or not even noticing the opportunities we are given to communicate with others. Rather than participating in a truly human action, we isolate ourselves like frightened forest animals, closing ourselves off from the rest of civilization. But man was created a social being. He was designed to interact with his fellow, to sympathize with the feelings of other people, fulfill the needs of those around him, draw his neighbors out of themselves, and in so doing, enrich both himself and society at large with the shared experience. How can knowledge be imparted, wisdom be gained, and progress be made without at least the attempt to communicate ideas and understand perspectives? Surely we, at least I, can do better. I plan to try, anyway.