As a boy, whenever I flew somewhere in an airplane, I always wanted the window seat. I relished in enjoying the remarkable view from five miles up in the sky.
Then I went through a period beginning in my mid-20’s when I was all about the aisle seat. I thought the legroom, coupled with the ease of getting up whenever I chose, outweighed any other factor.
The aisle can be nice if more space is what’s most important, but after a while I feel like I’m just riding on a city bus, watching row upon row of people with their opened books and laptops jostling about in the turbulence.
By opting for a bit more legroom, I’d lost out on the principal opportunity that flying affords: that one-of-a-kind vantage.
Unknown to me then, I had chosen comfort over perspective
Well, I’m back to taking the window seat wherever I fly. I can deal with a bit of discomfort, but I’m just not willing to give up the point of view; one that not only allows me the chance to watch and wonder as the Earth passes slowly beneath, but that teaches me subtle and timeless lessons about my own Life . . . if I’m patient enough to notice.
1. A Winding River Always Reaches Its Source
From the ground it’s impossible to fully grasp the size and scope of our planet’s vast topographical features, whether they’re mountains, canyons, or rivers. The raw power of the river is easily felt when you dip your foot into its turbulent waters, but in order to appreciate the immense path it cuts across the land, you need to see it from high above.
Winding rivers always reach the sea, but they never flow in a straight line. From the air I’ve seen wildly twisting rivers that appear to be covering the same ground twice, snaking back over themselves several times over. It’s easy to forget that they’re actually getting somewhere . . . they’re just doing it in their own time and in their own unique way.
We’re all trying to get somewhere in our lives, creatively, financially, professionally, and personally. Acting with patience, measured determination, and consistent forward motion is the surest way to arrive at any destination. Look to the river for encouragement and cut your own distinctive trail through the wilderness.
2. No Landscape Lasts Forever
The Earth may be one of our Solar System’s smallest planets, but some of its surface features are unimaginably colossal on a human scale. Deserts, oceans, jungles, mountain ranges, all of these seem impenetrable and endless, and yet even these vistas have their ending points.
If you’ve ever flown over the Pacific Ocean and stared out the window, you know what ‘endless’ looks like. Hours and hours pass and still nothing but open sea, until finally after thousands of miles, a thin coastline appears on the horizon . . . dry land at last. Along the northern end of the unforgiving Sahara desert lingers the thriving Mediterranean Sea, a blessing for weary travelers. Cross South over the frozen Himalayan mountains and eventually you’ll descend into the tropical warmth of Northern India.
Our world and our lives are full of trials, each one with an end-point in sight. They mark the conclusion of one boundary and the beginning of another. If you’ve ever endured a night that seemed painfully long, the dawn always broke. If you’ve ever felt hopelessly adrift on a sea of worry and dismay, landfall was never too far off. Whatever pain or hardship you’re going through at this moment, it will end. The change you seek is just beyond the horizon. Stay strong and keep moving.
3. The Mark of Humanity is Small
Think of the biggest objects humans have ever built: the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Mexico and Egypt, maybe the skyline of Manhattan. Guess what? None of them are visible from the International Space Station. Some of them are even hard to spot from just 35,000 feet in an airplane.
Recently I flew over St. Louis on my way to California. I squinted in the morning light, searching for the St. Louis Arch, the ‘Gateway to the West’ as it’s called. It wasn’t until we had nearly cleared the city completely that I finally spotted the enormous landmark glinting in the sun. . . a mere speck far below.
Humanity works so hard trying to leave its indelible marks along the terrain, and yet even our major accomplishments barley scratch the surface. It’s natural to strive for greatness, but it’s also natural for that greatness to fade from view. And this is one of the great paradoxes of life: the things we build are important and can inspire future generations, but they’re equally insignificant as well. It’s a complicated and potentially upsetting notion for many to face, and I’ll never explain its essence in a sentence or two, but there’s profound peace and humility in accepting this undeniable truth.
All Is ONE
Humans are a fundamental part of the Natural World Order. Our species is deeply intertwined within a universal web composed of every imaginable type of being . . . a literal ‘Cosmic Collective’ that encompasses all living creatures as well as the ecosystems that support them. No species is better than - or beneath - another. All are on an equally shared footing, despite how some people unconsciously behave in our world today.
The patterns and cycles that shape, sculpt, and erode the mountains and reconfigure the seas are essentially the same ones that fashion our brief lives. When we’re able to see the correlation between the life of a coral reef which can last eons, and ours which lasts a few decades at most, it helps us make more sense of our time here, our relationship to one another, and how best to utilize and understand the modest years we’re given.
It helps to change perspectives now and again. So many of us are too busy steamrolling ahead to bother with such things. And yet it’s these key moments of personal insight that steer us towards a heightened sense of awareness.
Now it shouldn’t necessarily take riding in a plane to help bring about this ‘shift,’ but if something as simple as choosing the window seat over the aisle can potentially trigger a gateway within yourself to open wide, then isn’t it worth just a tiny bit of discomfort?
It depends on what’s most important to you: a little more leg room or a richer perspective on Life.
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