I used to travel a lot for work, but of all those trips, mindlessly staring at the stretched fabric of the headrest in front of me, only one flight truly stands out. I’ve experienced plenty of turbulence before, but this was a whole different level. The jostling started with random rumbling, and a subdued volume of voices from the seats. Then the drops began, sudden and gravity-filled drops that were felt by my spinal cord before my brain. Some ancient human ancestor evolved this bundle of spinal nerves that knew emergency situations required reflexes, not logical consideration, and now my reflexes were taking over my world. When the pilot began to make purposeful maneuvers, we all knew he was attempting to avoid something, be it air pressure, storm clouds or whatever they see from those little trapezoid windows up front. The cabin had become really quiet now. The occasional high-pitched yelp that escaped a few passengers lips with each drop had made way to silence. It was the silence of focus on the sound of the plane and the feel of the armrests being squeezed like dumbbells in a curl. We were waiting for the next jolt to be our last.
But all this is not what made the flight memorable. Over the strained silence, several rows back, the sound of a young child, probably about 2 or so came drifting up the cabin. She was laughing, giggling actually. It was such a startling response to our fate, that I had to turn and look to see the child. I turned and peeked between the rows of upright seatbacks to see her mother holding her aloft and making faces as she raised and lowered the child with each bump and drop of our flying capsule. The mom had turned what was a sufficiently frightening experience for adults into a joyride of roller coaster fun for the toddler. While we were contemplating the rest of our life, she was having the time of hers. The contrast was stark.
Our human perspective is malleable. Our world is literally what we make it. Like that mother creating a whole new reality for her child, we can (and should) make a reality for ourselves. So my question to you is “What is your Preferred Reality?” How would you imagine or create your own relationships, community, society? If you were to metaphorically hold up a toddler and create a new perspective, what would it be?
Answer however you will. Everyone’s answers will be unique to their experience. Personally, I am concerned that our rapid pace of technological development is far outstripping our human and social development. We can instantly communicate with nearly anyone on the globe, but for fear of conflict or embarrassment, I’m reluctant to ask my neighbor to quiet his always barking dog. The social challenges seem much more difficult than any technological ones. We’re on the cusp of self-driving vehicles and 3-D printers that will be our Star Trek replicators, but we still have no solution to all of the ills of hunger, homelessness, poverty, and a myriad of societal problems. My Preferred Reality is one in which we value the community and our social interactions, maybe even to a greater degree than our jobs and our stuff. Maybe our tech can lead to incredibly rich experiences and intertwined relationships, instead of a more sheltered or narrow circle of existence. Then again, maybe I’m just a dreamer who needs to get out more. Maybe I should get on a plane.