Linda and I are in a London hotel as I write this. It’s 1:00am Wednesday morning. We arrived here early this afternoon. It was a twelve hour flight over nine time zones from Seattle to Paris, and then one hour and one zone back to London.
In big-travel, the first twenty four hours after journey’s end are a euphoric buzz. But then comes the jet-lag fuzziness. That crummy feeling will hit us about eight hours from now as we start the first of two days of business meetings. Nonetheless, here in the middle of the night, as we sit side-by-side hammering away on our respective laptops, I think of the systems mindset-prodding that was yesterday’s gift.
We’re in England to meet with our new business partner as we put together an international venture that has to do with training consultants in the Work the System method. Also, we’ll produce a less expensive product for business owners and corporate managers that will guide them step-by-step in transforming their worlds without outside help. I’ll talk more about this in later posts.
But right now, let’s talk about the traveling. Yesterday, at the end of the long flight to Paris, my mindset slipped and I left my new smart phone on the plane. Not fun, trying to get Air France to pay attention to my mini-plight. Helping me out from back in Oregon, Andi found the Air France lost-and-found website page. There was no phone number listed so, as recommended on the page, she sent an email. Part of the auto-response: “…however, if you do not receive any reply from us within 8 days, the tracing has to be considered as negative.”
Then there was the much shorter flight from Paris back to London, sadly behind schedule (good thing, because we arrived late into Paris). Yet, the flight attendants and hundreds of passengers accepted the delay in good humor. I observed this well-dressed assemblage of (mostly) French business people and the snappy flight attendants who served them. It was amusing to watch one of these attendants slowly work his way down the aisle, carefully counting passengers, per row, three on his left, three on his right. He smiled slightly as he methodically pointed his little counter machine at each of us, one-two-three, one-two-three, quietly mouthing off the count in French as he proceeded past us and toward the back of the plane. Interesting that he tallied passengers in this way when the plane was full. Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to just count any empty seats and then subtract that tiny number from the total seats on the plane? (The math would have been simple because there was not a single empty seat.) It seemed to me that no one cared or noticed what he was doing. I didn’t care either, but did notice because these are the goofy things I catch as my day unfolds. It’s that systems-mindset thing that travels around with me everywhere.
But then I considered the intricacy of the plane, and that in all probability each passenger would successfully arrive at his or her destination, traveling leisurely in comfortable seats, with bathroom facilities, constant announcements of progress; food and water and pretty much whatever a human could require for such a journey. Mind-boggling, to consider the countless mechanical and electronic systems of the aircraft, the pilot’s routines, the support services that fuel the effort, the training and protocol of the flight attendants; that somewhere in our midst was an armed air-marshal to protect us, and of course the incessant cautionary double-checking that is performed in a myriad of areas, all of this occurring silently with very few travelers thinking about any of it. It’s a marvel of systems all working together to safely deliver each passenger from point A to point B and I love to watch it while in the middle of it.
But it’s the airports I like best. Next time you’re in one consider the surging throng of humans, each taking a unique path to their designated aircraft. Think about the innumerable systems that make all this possible: ticketing, customs, security, lighting, food, internet connections, food options, sanitary facilities, police protection. I could go on and on but you get the point.
As you stand there in the middle of it all yet slightly outside and elevated in your perspective, watch and meditate. Let your mind grasp the miracle of it.
An airport is a huge machine that pumps out millions of successful system operations per minute in order to deliver successful results to a huge assortment of individuals…and as this wonderfully synchronized complexity sinks in to your consciousness, think further, about the uncountable number of individual bodies scurrying around, nearly all of which are functioning exactly as designed. Are there some unhappy faces and the occasional frustrated comment or reasonable negative observation such as the ones I made above? Of course. But in the scheme of things, the negatives – a lost cell phone, delayed flights, a mindless passenger tally procedure – are just drops of tainted water in a sea of perfection.
Our personal picture? After a 16 hour journey, here Linda and I sit in this sweet little boutique hotel, one-third of the way around the world from our home in the western U.S. Here we are, happy, safe and content in this wonderful place called England.
This is from a recent post, The Fabric of Our Lives: “We don’t notice the countless efficient systems that make up our lives so we take them for granted, never appreciating the impeccability of it all. Miracles surround us! And the tiny number of systems we consider flawed seem that way only because they are not what we want them to be, as they stand in stark contrast to the massive perfection around them.”
My mind, just like yours, has a knack for wandering into the negative. (I’m certain it’s a genetic-survival response.) But airports always thrust me back to the positive systems mindset. It’s almost a religious experience, to observe the near-perfection. Of course, airports aren’t the only doorways to getting out of ourselves to see the beauty of the mechanical reality-machine of which we’re a part. With non-judgemental open eyes, each moment of the day offers an opportunity to observe and therefore get a better grip on life. It’s just that airports make it easy.
Photo by lunchtimemama via flickr used under a creative Commons License.