As much as we sometimes want to move to an island to be alone – that aloneness would ultimately transform to loneliness. Our humanness to connect with others runs deep. Whether we like it or not, we need each other and to coexist as community. Which brings me to a recent experience of encountering a visitor from another planet.
On a flight from New York to DC, I couldn’t help but notice a man waving his arm and speaking very loudly into his cellphone. I wondered if he, or the person on the other end was hard of hearing because the rest of us in the waiting area weren’t. As the gate agent called for us to board, this same man seemingly felt his seating was more mission critical and jumped the line.
If we know anything about the Universal Life Force – it has a sense of humor. Ironically, I sat across the aisle from him. His conversation continued fiercely, long after the flight attendant told us to place our phones on “Airplane Mode.” As we winged our way across the skies, he munched.
After landing, as soon as the gong sounded that we could unbuckle ourselves – like a jack in the box, he sprang from his seat and stepped over the person sitting next to him. Never mind this person needed to disembark as well.
I just sat watching his actions unfold. First, he grabbed a raincoat and swung it so wide it smacked the man behind him. As he struggled with his luggage in the overhead bin, the same man behind him ducked to avoid being elbowed. There was no apology. No acknowledgement. No awareness. Weaving his way through the line of fellow disembarking passengers, his body language said, “I’m important.” I glanced over to where this man was sitting and was stunned to see a pile of debris from the food he was munching. I could almost hear his parting thought, “Have one of the little people clean it.”
My initial response was anger. A righteous indignation that spread through me. “How could one person be so unmindful? Was everyone invisible?” I made eye contact with the man who had been nearly elbowed. To my surprise, his face bore no malice. Instead – if there was any hint of emotion present, it was sadness. And in that moment, I understood. Suddenly, I too felt sadness. How can we become so oblivious to others?
Yet, we see signs of it everywhere. Families glued to their phones in restaurants. Line jumpers, litterers, healthy failing to give up seats to the aged, hearing but not listening, or (you fill in the blank). If we are oblivious to others in our daily lives – we are absent for our friends and family as well because there’s no on/off switch. While life on Planet Oblivion might seem fine – one day you’ll look up, look out and realize it’s a lonely place.