I have jury duty today and there is a giant television with news of Flight 370, the flight that disappeared en route to Beijing.
Yesterday, I was in an airport and every TV was broadcasting news of the flight, interviews with neighbors of the pilots, and people who knew the passengers.
We are desperate to make sense of this missing airplane. Every day, every hour there is a new theory. The current thinking is that the pilots were enemies of democracy and may have been complicit in hijacking the airline somehow. Yesterday, there were theories that there was a team of semi-conductor experts on the plane and as a result it was targeted for hijacking.
I have no idea how or why the plane disappeared, or whether or not the pilot saying “Good night” and dimming the lights before the plane changed course is relevant or not. I have been on many planes, when after the dinner service, the lights dim, the plane quiets as people tune into their movies or books, often the only sound is the hum of the motor, and an occasional update from the cockpit. So far, every flight that I have been on, has arrived safely at its destination.
Flight 370 has disappeared, that much we know, but that is really all we know. Hours and hours of airtime and effort are being spent trying to make this event not random, trying to find a person or persons to blame. We do this after a tragedy because if we allow for tragedy to be random, then we accept the possibility that it could happen to anyone. The causes and conditions of the lives of the passengers of Flight 370 led them to be on the plane, and they have disappeared. We want to believe that there is a larger story, that we are protected from this being random by the presence of a bad guy, or bad guys.
Whether Flight 370 disappeared due to malice or equipment failure doesn’t change the fact that the passengers have vanished from their families, their jobs, and their lives. I am sure it is awful and terrifying for those who know and love them. It also scares those of us who didn’t, because if they can cease to exist, then so can we, and we spend all day every day filling our lives with noise and stories to distract ourselves from that fact.
The passengers of Flight 370 had lives whose causes and conditions have put them at the center of the world’s consciousness. The truth is, someday we will all disappear from the lives of those we love, from our jobs and our homes. If we are lucky, there will be advance warning and long goodbyes. For others, it may come too soon or too fast. We search for explanation to tragedy, so that we can believe that it won’t happen to us, that somehow we are protected from ever disappearing.
Events like the disappearance of Flight 370 should serve to remind us all to enjoy each breath, to celebrate each moment of connection. To be fully awake to our lives as they are at this moment.
There is uncertainty in everything we do, from moment to moment and breath to breath. This is reality, you can choose to meet it with fear or joy, from moment to moment and breath to breath.
***** As a postscript, I was excused from jury duty, and when I thanked the woman at the courthouse, she looked at me and said “Don’t thank me, it’s random….”