Flying Spiritually

Flying_Spiritually_small20:40 Hours EST: Just a short thought today, a departure from my sometimes overly academic tone.

I’m sitting at gate 2 in concourse F of Atlanta’s Hartfield airport, I’m travelling from the US back to Montreal and my connecting flight on Delta the self-proclaimed “Atlanta’s Hometown Airline” is connecting through… well….Atlanta.

Some people are awed by sunsets (I’m certainly one of those) and others by the vastness of the oceans, but for me it’s also…… airports. The mélange of accents, languages, skin tones, races, and cultures at a major airport like this one is overwhelming. It’s almost literally a cross-sectional slice off humanity, dropped in one place, and it triggers in me a sense of belonging to something so much bigger than myself.

I’ve always had a fascination for air travel and in particular for airplanes. I am awed by the thunderous take-offs of huge jetliners and moved by the seemingly magical ability we have developed to fly 100 ton machines through the skies.

To add to all this, Atlanta is the airport at which I first arrived in the United States all those many years ago as an incoming college freshman. Fresh off the boat from Tanzania (OK it was actually a Boeing 747 but you get the picture). So flying through this airport is always accompanied by nostalgic memories of my early days and college years here in the south; the people, the friends, the warm southern hospitality and my college campus in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Today however, I am especially moved, in a lonely, melancholy but sweet way with a strength of emotion I haven’t really experienced before and which I really can’t explain. It is to me, a very spiritual experience not unlike the feeling I often get when watching the sun set into the clear turquoise-blue Indian Ocean off the coast of my island hometown of Zanzibar.

As I think now about the wave of sensations I experienced today I realize that not once did I have need to ascribe my emotional moment to any supernatural higher intelligence. My experience, inexplicable as it is, does not beg of me to recognize a god source.

I may not be able to explain why airports make me feel this way, I have trust that one day, neuroscientists, neurobiologists, neuropsychologists and all the other flavors or “neuro” prefixed specialists and others, will be able to explain the origins and mechanisms of my experience; but I feel no need to fabricate an answer to the “why” question behind my spiritual experience. In this moment at least, I am happy to just enjoy this bitter sweet, almost sadly overwhelming feeling, and to benefit from an oversized brain that is a source of such fascinating experiences.

As I said…….. some people have Sunsets and Oceans………. for me it’s Concourse F at Hartsfield and fifty-two inch Arrivals and Departures monitors.


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