The plane is doing its approach to the airport. There’s a small crosswind and the aircraft sideslips onto the runway with a bit of a jolt. The left-hand wheels are on the runway now and gravity soon ensures that the right wheels touch down soon after. There is a dramatic braking and we are thrust forward in our seats. But very soon the plane is taxiing along the runway to the terminal.
A voice comes over the intercom. “Although we are now on the ground we are still concerned for your safety. So please stay seated with your seat-belt on until the plane comes to a stop at the terminal and the captain turns off the seat-belt sign. Those of you who are within reach of your mobile phones may now turn them on.”
There is a great flurry of activity as passengers retrieve their mobiles, access their message banks or make calls. We have been flying for no more than an hour but in that hour we have lost contact with the outside world. Surely there must be urgent information for us to now access. There are calls we need to make that can’t wait another minute. Or we need immediately to examine our e-mails because we know there is one there somehow that is going to change our lives (or at least distract us from them). Our significance in this world has somehow been diminished by not being able to participate in this communication traffic.
I am staying at an inner city hotel. It is not the flashest in town, but it is comfortable, reasonably priced and convenient to where I need to go to work with my clients. I get in from the airport midafternoon and check in. I have a late afternoon appointment. When that’s done I come back and prepare to go down for an early dinner. When I enter the bistro I am assailed by the cacophony of several television sets on different stations competing for attention with the afternoon’s news, the sporting results and some abstruse reality TV show. Is it too much to ask that I should just have a little quiet time by myself?
In the morning I get up to the sound of my alarm. By the time I have dressed and made my way down to the bike track by the river for a gentle jog it is 5:30am. When I get to the track there are already quite a few walkers there. Surprisingly quite a few of them are walking and talking on their mobile phones. (Who do you talk to on your mobile at 5:30am?)
This all seems to me to be a dilemma. It would seem that somehow we can’t abide our own company. It seems we must find distractions and diversions so that we are not faced with the awful prospect of confronting ourselves. What hope have we of living meaningful lives if we can’t be reconciled with ourselves?
Spinoza, our best known philosopher of eternity, proclaims, “Only intense reflection, detaching itself from all life’s clutter and clatter, can discover the eternal.” It is only those who have forgotten where they came from that feel uncomfortable in the presence of themselves.