Yesterday, September 11, 2011, was an interesting day. I flew from San Jose back to Denver. I wasn’t real excited about flying on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, but I really wanted to attend this conference in California. The flight crew provided a special moment which drew the normally detached flying public together for a moment. I felt the power and emotion deeply within my heart. Here’s what happened.
The flight attendant came on the intercom to talk about the proverbial “elephant in the living room.” Yes, it was a special day. She asked us to simultaneously flip on our “call attendant” buttons, thus ringing each of our personal bells throughout the cabin. She then asked us to observe a moment of silence for the victims. I think we were cruising at 39,000 feet.
She then thanked us for not being afraid to fly that day. I could tell the gratitude was from somewhere deep inside her as opposed to the umpteenth direction on how to breathe from the inflatable mask. The cabin then erupted in clapping. All of us, in our own way, felt this deep emotion and pride of country as our hearts opened, however briefly. It said much about the moment and place our country now occupies.
The past decades have seen much greed and focus on self. The airline incident yesterday shows how dynamically things change when we come from heart and service. The entire flight cabin was one, well oiled, unit. This is the best part of us and we’ve forgotten how to access it.
What’s happened is the events of the past few years have lead to emotional detachment. We don’t feel good, we don’t feel bad, we feel nothing. Our perception that pain is judgmentally “bad” then requires we switch off the pain switch as a preservation device. In doing so, we switch off our humanity. You see, the best part of us only emerges from the deepest pain.
I struggled with that when my dear buddy Beezer was so ill. I felt I was letting my buddy down so layers of judgmental pain overcame me. No it wasn’t fair and no we didn’t deserve this. So I had a tremendous pity party as I lamented the depth of my suffering and the complete inability for anyone to appreciate how badly I’d been wronged.
Then something extraordinary began to take place. The animals began to open my heart. They taught me that in life “pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional.” Yes it hurt, but life was also fair and together we would survive and thrive by serving each other selflessly.
Beezer never got better from his illness, but I was miraculously cured. Heck, I didn’t even know I was sick. This brings us back to today and our opportunity.
The country is in trouble, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not lack of revenue, excess spending, entitlements or anything else feed to us. It’s a lack of heart and service. The ability to feel for others pain and sacrifice a bit of ourselves for their benefit, asking nothing for ourselves. The ability to enter a battle, not for god or country, but for the guy next to you. The immense power of saying to yourself, “this is going to hurt, but my buddy needs me.” Simply put, the ability to leave guilty decisions of yesterday behind. To never fear because the perceived event we fear must take place in the future. To doggedly remain present and in the moment because this very instant of time is the source of power and the place of peace. Then use the moment to share our love, and essence of what truly makes America great, with our fellow man.
Once we do that, things will get better. We don’t need the politicians “help,” we don’t need handouts, we don’t wildly vacillating political theory. All we need is for each of us to care as deeply about the guy next to us as we care for ourselves. Once we do that, as a country, the secrets will reveal themselves like an Indiana Jones movie. It’s an opportunity for us to show “The Greatest Generation,” (and ourselves) that we got the right stuff too.