Just one look

FullSizeRender-46Have you had the experience of walking onto a plane with open seating? With less than a one second look you are able to make very specific determinations regarding perfect strangers.

It’s as though by simply walking through the plane’s forward cabin door, some type of extraordinary divining super hero powers are bestowed.

You definitively know whether strangers are going to be good seat-mates or exceptionally bad ones.

You know if they are going to be a yacker, a crossing into your seat territory legs-wide-apart sprawler, a full-tilt recliner rendering your tray table useless, a let me show you all the pictures on my mobile device and go into excruciating detail traveler, or – a snorer.

I had that experience today of believing I actually possessed some type of divining super hero powers. I was heart broken and disgusted with myself by the time I selected my seat.

I had the opportunity to choose the seat next to a person with a disability. I chose another seat. I walked by.

My disgust for myself grew more intense as other passengers made the same choice I had – furtively looking and then walking by. Until finally, the last person on the plane took the only remaining seat next to the person I chose to look past.

As I watched this play out, I began to get a glimpse of the isolation that those with disabilities experience daily. Their invisibility, their exile by people like me who choose to not look, to not connect. Gary Hollander writes beautifully on this subject in his blog. It’s a subject I’ve discussed with Gary, making my choice today all the more unconscionable.

Today I played it safe. Today I passed judgment on another perfectly, perfect human being. Today I did not give the world all the love I have to give.

That, my friends, is what failing humankind looks like. It’s the look I wore today. A look that is not good, not acceptable and never in-season.

My wish for all of us, and today, especially for myself, is to look at the world with love and compassion. It is in these looks of love and compassion we become our best selves. Our best selves, requiring no super hero powers. Our best selves making the world view all the brighter.

My best self, your best self – that’s the look that’s always in season.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gary Hollander
    Feb 12, 2015 @ 05:29:38

    Thanks for the lovely post, Linda. As usual, you don’t take the easy way out. One of the big challenges for conscious people is just that: consciousness provides us with way too many examples of our short comings. But at times consciousness gets put into the overdrive on conscience-ness (obvious made-up word, but a stand in for a somewhat underused meaning of conscientious, that painstaking review of everything under the lens of our conscience). In my humble opinion, it sounds like you have equated your seating decision and its consequences as a moral failing on your part. If I am wrong in that, sorry.

    Let me invite you to an alternative option — just one in many. Do the whole seating thing in your head again. Don’t change any part of your decision. But find a way to approach your assessment of it differently. One I like to use is this: I know a 25 year old who once every year or more frequently screws up her credit card, overspending in a way that is really hard to dig out of. Then she feels really bad about it, puts in loads of extra work hours, and sometimes even goes hungry until she pays it off. Shortly after, she does it all over again because she feels bad herself and wants a balm to put it all right; a balm like shopping. Ultimately she realized that her spending limit on the card is too high for her to manage effectively. A multi-billion advertising campaign teaches her every day that she is not okay and needs to consume stuff to be okay. Since it really doesn’t work, she buys more in hopes that more of what doesn’t work will start working. You get the picture, I think.

    When we get the effects of advertising on us, the subtle but constant message that disabled people are somehow burdensome, difficult, infectious, far from the ideal of thin, attractive, agile, contributors, invisible really — when we see the impact of these messages, we can put our own avoidant behaviors in a larger context of societal discrimination and bias. While this does not obviate our need to address our personally limited behavioral choices, it gives us a better notion of what will be needed to shift our patterned reactions to disabled people. We get to see that their impairments are not disabling, but rather our widespread social reaction to their impairments disable them. We get to see that being sold a bill of goods about our personal comfort has limited our ability to find elegant solutions to the decisions we make ever day.

    We get to arrange the order of things on our bucket lists.

    For example, we might defer our goal of finding the perfect walnut chocolate brownee, and add a goal of scanning our world for disabling situations (curbs, narrow passages, small signs, dim lighting, hard to reach soap dispensers) for a day. Once we accomplish this goal, we might see hanging out with disabled people on planes as an opportunity to intereact with the intelligence, patience, ingenuity that they employ each day. Maybe scanning our interactions with them will give us some ideas about how to increase grace in our own lives. In the long haul, we might even see in others an opportunity to expand our own humanity by learning from what they have to teach.

    Keep in mind I am not great at this, really not even good at it. I have a long way to go — perhaps longer than you. But I do find that avoiding feeling bad about myself helps me stay more conscious. Feeling bad in my experience only prompts me to notice myself less.

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  2. passionistaatlarge
    Feb 12, 2015 @ 18:17:43

    Bless you for your honesty.

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