DAVIDS DESK #118 – FLYOVER STATES
DAVIDS DESK #118 – FLYOVER STATES
Back in the days when I was regularly traveling to give lectures and workshops, I always tried to drive to wherever I needed to go. If time were an issue, then I would take a plane, but otherwise, I loved road trips. I loved seeing the various parts of the United States and getting to know my country from the ground up; after years of cross-country trips, there are only three States I’ve never had occasion to visit. The United States lives in me in my memory of all the different landscapes that I’ve seen. When I think of America, it’s all there for me, from Maine to California and from Washington to Florida.
As my family grew, my travel time diminished. I didn’t want to spend so much time on the road away from Julie and the kids. So, I began flying more. I enjoy flying, too (or I did when it was a more comfortable and less harried and crowded experience). There was a thrill to looking down and seeing countryside through which I had previously driven. Still, I missed the closeness with the land and with places and people that I experienced while driving. I had become a “flyover” person.
I don’t know when the term originated or started to become popular, but I became aware of it last year during the Presidential Election: “Flyover States.” These are the States in the middle of the country that air flights between the large urban centers of the East and West coasts regularly fly over. To be a Flyover State is at one level a simple description of a fact of life as more and more people live on the East and West coasts and take non-stop flights back and forth. But especially last year, the phrase took on additional meaning. Flyover States were the homes of the “forgotten Americans,” the ones whose opinions and activities were not as important when compared to what goes on in places like New York, Washington, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the large metropolises on either side of America. To be a “Flyover State” carried connotations of being ignored, overlooked, not seen, or even disdained as being of lesser importance. Certainly, if a person’s only view of America is from 30,000 feet, he or she is not seeing and connecting with the country in the way a person does who is driving from one coast to another.
There are commentators who describe one of the divisions in this country, of which there currently appear to be many, as that between the heavily populated and generally more liberal metropolitan areas of the Coastal States and the less populated and often more conservative Flyover States. I’m sure there’s a truth to this, and the last election would seem to confirm this, showing again the intent of the Electoral College to give political power to States with smaller populations.
However, when I think of Flyover States, it conjures up an entirely different image for me. It seems to me that one of the many challenges facing us in this country, and for that matter in the world at large, is how easy it is to step into a “flyover state.” Such a state is not a place but an attitude that can arise when we encounter someone who is different from us. This difference could be political, religious, ethnic, racial, economic, or something as trivial as a difference in hairstyles or clothing. Unless we are compelled for some reason to engage with this person, we can “flyover” them in our minds and hearts. We can fail to encounter the territory of their life; we can fail to make connection.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced this, both as the one doing the flyover and the one being “flown over” and overlooked. We all live at one time or another in our daily lives in a flyover state. The cumulative effect is that we come to know each other less and less, and spend more and more time clustered mentally and emotionally with those with whom we agree. “Flying over” pushes difference out of our lives or at least diminishes its impact. We see only what we want to see.
I believe that our hope lies in our ability to connect, and this requires that we walk into each other’s territory, at least enough to appreciate another even if we don’t agree with his or her positions and beliefs. Turning each other into flyover states will not help us going forward. The future depends on understanding. The major problems and challenges of the world are systemic and cannot be solved except through collaboration and cooperation. If we can’t go so far as to love each other, we must at least know and respect each other. This requires looking at our differences directly, up close and personal, and not dismissing or ignoring that with which we do not agree.
At this time, our country is embroiled in problems caused by our various differences. If we hope to solve them, we must work to connect and live in our hearts and minds in united states, not flyover ones.
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DAVID’S DESK #126 – WATERBEDS
Back in the early Seventies, two married friends of mine decided to be early adopters of the latest thing in bedroom furniture: the flotation mattress, or waterbed. I happened to visit them not long after the bed was delivered, and they delightedly invited me to lie on it. I gingerly made my way to the center of the bed, feeling like I was crawling over a wriggling mass of Jell-O. Once there, though, it felt wonderfully relaxing, like floating on a softly undulating pool of water—which, of course, is basically what I was doing.
A couple of weeks later, I saw my friends again and asked how they were enjoying their waterbed. The husband gave his wife a rueful look and said, “We had to get baffles.”
“Baffles?” I asked.
“Yeah. They’re slats that are inserted into the mattress to break up the waves that can form in the water.”
He then told me that one night his wife had jolted into wakefulness with a painful cramp in her leg. Her thrashing about had created a wave in the water of the mattress that rushed over to her husband’s side and flipped him out of the bed onto the floor, bruising his arm.
My friend was laughing as he related this to me, though he admitted he hadn’t been laughing at the time. It is a funny story. But it’s more than that. Over the years as I’ve observed the effects of subtle energies of thought and feeling in our environment, I’ve had numerous occasions to think about it. It’s an ideal metaphor in many ways for our relationship to the invisible currents of thought and feeling that surround us all the time.
It’s as if we are all lying on the same waterbed. Though we live our separate lives on the surface, we are resting on invisible networks of connectedness. These connections create a collective human field which, like my friends’ flotation mattress, can transmit waves of feeling from one part of humanity to another. If people cry out with fear and suffering in Puerto Rico or Syria, for example, the subtle energy of their emotions are not confined to their physical locality but ripple out, like the waves in a waterbed. And when those waves reach where we are lying, we, too, can be “flipped out.” Our own personal energy fields can respond in unanticipated ways. Our mood may suddenly change, leaving us feeling anxious or fearful, angry or hateful, for no rational reason that we can discern. But because we believe that our thoughts and feelings exist in a private subjectivity within our own heads, we can fail to recognize that, like a radio or television set, we are picking up on information “broadcast” from somewhere else.
If we identify strongly enough with these sudden and anomalous “flips” of emotion or thought, then we can add our personal energy to them. We propagate the wave onward through our collective “mattress,” increasing the chance that others will have their moods, their thoughts, their feelings flipped as well. And sometimes this “flipping out” can lead someone who is susceptible to take dangerous and hurtful actions in the physical world.
These subtle waves moving through our human collective field are undoubtedly given power and shape by media. The news is an almost continuous litany of anxiety-producing images and stories. We are bombarded on two fronts, consciously by negative information transmitted through news programs, radio shows, social media, and the Internet, and subconsciously by negative energies generated by the many ways in which human beings inflict emotional, mental, and physical suffering on each other.
The situation is not hopeless, but it does require our attention. We need to understand that our thoughts and feelings can have nonlocal effects and to take responsibility for what we project into the world.
One action we can take is exactly the same as my friends took with their waterbed. They got baffles to break up the waves. We can do the same, except in this instance, we are the baffles. Simply by refusing to give attention and energy to sudden “flips” or bursts of negative feeling and thought, whether stimulated by media or by some, hidden, unconscious, invisible subtle influence, we can stop a wave from developing and propagating further.
Recently I was sitting in a restaurant chatting with a friend when I felt a sudden, unreasonable anger, even a hatred, for government employees. There was no reason in the world for me to feel this; it certainly wasn’t anything I was thinking about, and I don’t cultivate anger or hatred in any event. Yet the feelings were intense. It would have been easy and natural to identify with them.
I’m familiar, though, with how feelings like this can travel through our collective waterbed. And knowing this, I knew it was time to be a baffle. I first acknowledged the feelings and didn’t try to push them away; in effect, I was holding the subtle energy in my own field so it wouldn’t travel on. Then I consciously invoked a feeling of love. I enfolded the anger in this love, and as I did so, the intensity of these strange feelings simply evaporated.
I didn’t have to know where these feelings came from. How could I know? These days, so many people are angry with government at all levels. My job as a baffle was not to pass them on, not to assign blame to anyone for generating them in the first place.
Being a baffle means deliberately standing in a calm, loving, solid place, and this means knowing yourself. It means cultivating the kind of emotions and thoughts in the moment that you would like to receive from others, that you would find supportive, encouraging, protective, and loving. We can’t help broadcasting into the subtle environment, into the network of connections that tie us all together, into the waterbed of humanity. But we can choose what we project, and when we run into its opposite, as we surely will, we can then transform it or at least not pass it on.
I’ve focused on the transmission of negative energy here because that is what creates problems for us; given human habits, it’s what we are likely to fixate on, as well. We are hardwired to be sensitive to threats. But it’s important to realize that our waterbed can transmit waves of good feeling, waves of courage, joy, love, and support as well. This is a whole area of spiritual service in itself, deliberately being a source of the kind of positive creative energies we’d like more of in the world.
With this in mind, when you suddenly feel happy for no reason or in spite of everything on the news, you feel that the world is an OK place and that good things will unfold, then you can “flip” for that wave. That’s the kind of thing we definitely want to pass on.
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