Saturday, November 10, 2007

flying high

I know I shouldn't be awake at 5:30 after going to bed so late, but I woke up with a belly laugh, just like I went to sleep: one of the last things I did last night was look at Facebook, and there was a comment on this photo from Lizzie. The comment was, "That's an AIRPLANE?" It brought on one of those laughs that comes up from way down inside, a really satisfying outburst. I slept like a baby, until I woke up at 5:11 with everything coming together in my mind. The photo...the conversation with willowlaughter I had earlier in the day about the poor quality of airplane air ("as bad as a very smoggy day in L.A." -- learned from NPR's Science Friday)... the fact that I had just made my forty-hundredth airline reservation this year (yes, "forty-hundredth" is a number, I'm a mathematician and I know!)... and a blog post was born.
First of all, I didn't even notice the odd way the plane was decorated. That's partly due to the fact that I have very little decorating sense, but also because everybody expected airplanes to look like that back in the day. Flying on an airplane used to be FUN! Here were some of the attractions for me -- and some of them still exist: anybody could come see you off at the gate (sometimes it was a real party!), and once you got on there were no phones to answer (this could soon change), comfy seats with lots of pillows and real blankets, plenty of free food and drink (I remember at least once eating a steak meal - in coach! With a real knife to cut with. No, I wasn't always a vegetarian...), no TV and of course no movies (there wasn't even a way to do that at home), no potential terrorist threat (although the occasional plane was hijacked, you didn't have to worry unless you were flying near Cuba), a lovely assortment of magazines for your reading pleasure (no SkyMall or airline mags back then), steaming washcloths 2/3 of the way through the flight to freshen up a bit (that's what Joseph is doing in this other photo), free playing cards and wings for the kiddies (and probably other stuff, too -- they were all into entertaining children) and when you got off the plane, your friends and/or family were there to meet you at the gate! Ah, those were the days! We didn't have problems with people raging at the flight attendants. Of course, the downside was people were allowed to smoke on the airplane, if they sat in "the back" (meaning the last half of the plane!) I guess why I like flying (or did, until I OD'd on it with at least 14 flight-segments this past year - a personal "best") is I am still living in those days, back in my mind. Pure escapism, like going to the movies -- only better, because you get to create your own plot, with the backdrop being the scenery out the window and the lovely, colorful decor. I loved it. And here I go again!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Expanding my vocabulary

I've never seen a myrmidon
I never hope to see one.
But I can tell you anyhow
I'd rather see than be one!

p.s. This exercise (but not the word!) reminds me of my father, whose birthday it is today. He would pick a vocabulary word (out of a 1000-word box we kept handy) and post it at work. He "required" his apprentices (? interns? I hesitate to call them myrmidons...) to use the word appropriately in a sentence sometime during the day. He also liked it when we did that... and it became our habit to ask him what the "word of the day" was and talk about it a bit, at dinner? breakfast? (My memory is so fuzzy -- maybe one of my brothers can help me out here... I wish we could recreate some of these long ago moments...) Anyway, Dad loved words (as does my mom) and it appears this love of words is shared by his grandson -- and Dad would have relished this new exercise instituted by Z!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The non-violent way of life: an example

I just read this excellent essay by John Dear, and couldn't restrain myself from sharing it with my readers. I have not been to the Abbey of Gethsemani before, but I have been to the Trappist abbeys at Moncks Corner, SC, and in Conyers, GA: Mepkin Abbey and the Monastery of the Holy Spirit respectively. I can attest to the strong spirit of peace in these places. Reading John Dear's article makes me want to go to Mepkin for another visit. Alas, my path does not head in that direction anytime in the near future... but in the meantime there is The Oratory, a sanctuary within the bustle of college and town life, with peace-filled prayer opportunities and a community dedicated in all sorts of ways to social justice and non-violence issues.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Speaking of Faith

Thanks to the time change, I just heard an interesting discussion* of what is behind the current events in Burma. One thing that struck me was when the guest was talking of "lovingkindness", which is also the subject of a book I'm currently reading, The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice, by Rami Shapiro. Lovingkindness is a practice that I first read about in Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's books, and it is sorely needed in our world today, especially in our culture.
Other interesting aspects of the discussion: how Buddhist spirituality affects the way the people of Myanmar respond to oppression, the reasons behind the monks' marches, and the whole concept of power in different cultures.
Well, that's what's on my mind today. Now I'm off to do my laundry.
*At this link you will find the program online as well as downloads for MP3 and iPod.