Doctor Dragged from United Flight And the Greater Metaphor

There is the shocking footage currently circulating of the doctor that was dragged from a United Airlines flight due to overbooking. You can see the New York Times article here. And people filmed it, people verbally protested the man being dragged, but not one person moved to intervene. And following the incident, everyone, including the doctor, got back on the flight. This boggles my mind, because I would not go anywhere with that particular crew given that they clearly showed what they truly think of the passengers.

For me, I immediately imagined myself in that situation, or being at home and watching my neighbors be violently dragged away by “the authorities” for no reason whatsoever. And I honestly don’t know. One person against several are not decent odds. But an entire plane-full? Why didn’t they collectively demand a different crew, demand their money, demand for lawyers to be brought to the airport? It didn’t have to be a violent uprising, but some kind of uprising would be more respectful. We’ve been treated like livestock by the plane industry for years, but this really surprised me. Yet another sign of how complacent we’ve all become.

So here we stand, on the brink of yet another unjust war fought over oil on a foreign field that we helped set the stage for, that the powers that be have been manipulating and trying to accomplish for years. And we may loudly protest what will come, but will any of us actually try to stop them? Will we stop giving our power over? I don’t know.

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The Possibility of Change

When I was a pre-teen, my dad had a very cool girlfriend for a brief time. I don’t remember her name at all (Dineen maybe?) because she was too smart and too cool to be with my father for long (don’t get me wrong, I love him but being able to handle a relationship with strong and smart women was not a strong point for my father). The reason I remember this woman though is because she gifted me with a lovely hardcover edition of the first three “So You Want to Be a Wizard?” books by Diane Duane, now called the Young Wizards series. I adored these books, even though they were dated even in the early 1990’s when I was reading it.

Spoiler alert ahead: for me, the most striking moment in the first book is when the lead character gives the villain a chance to return to the light. She doesn’t destroy him because she can’t, she doesn’t force him to change, but she opens up the opportunity for him to change himself if he wants to. And this really is all we can do for one another in this world, isn’t it? And what we can do for ourselves.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing tendency in our society to shut each other down, and, perhaps more detrimental, to shut ourselves down, to the possibility of change and growth. Every time we speak in terms of absolutes, every time we say “it is NEVER okay” or “we must ALWAYS” or “that’s just the way it is and there is no changing it ever” means we are diminishing ourselves and others. Because the truth is, the list of things it is never okay to do or say is very short and can be boiled down to “don’t deliberately hurt other people unless they are threatening you with violence and tyranny”. This would cover torture, rape, mental and physical abuse, murder, child abuse (which I think is the worst crime of all), the massive slaughter of one nation against another, and indeed any general sort of nastiness where one person or group is using their power over another for whatever reason to deliberately prevent them from living life to their potential. But I digress. Bottom line is when we talk in terms of absolutes, even if only for dramatic effect, it cuts off the possibility of change for ourselves and for others. It traps us in a kind of stasis of the here and now, a bubble that is difficult to pop because even though it is just a bubble, it takes on the illusion of an impossibly strong substance the more we believe in the absolutism that we are speaking and feeling. Also, speaking and thinking in terms of absolutes opens ourselves to being controlled by those who play on those absolutes and our fears of moving beyond them.

So I invite you all in the coming months to really think about how you’re phrasing things to yourself and to others. Is an absolute you are speaking really an absolute? Or is it just a way for you to not have to address something that you’d rather not be dealing with and avoid potentially changing your viewpoint? And if you are comfortable with your absolutes, which is your full right to be in, then at least be considerate about not pushing those off on other people and trying to keep them in the slots you’ve decided they should be in. Inner development, growth, and change is what leads to outer development, growth, and change. The possibility of change is what creates hope for a better future for our species, so keep that in mind in your communication with others. The way life opens up when you keep this in mind is truly wonderful.