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We can’t avoid life’s bumps — and shouldn’t

Mari Rose Hale

This summer, the anti-collision system on our flight from Myrtle Beach overrode pilot controls as we were descending into DIA. It was fun.

I saw a plane out the window, descending as we were …. “Do you see it? Do you see it?” I asked my son Gabe. There, above that green circle field … now by the big round lakes … Just there below the rows of warehouses but above that brown thing. I searched for his perspective in the oculus of wonder (he had the window seat).

“Oh yeah!” He exclaimed. ”Cool!” Grand Bestower of Perspective that I am, I had finally nailed it.

Then, it got closer. Interestingly, curiously, not yet alarmingly but bordering on peculiarly closer. “This is my dance space this is your dance space” closer.

I started to wonder. … Is he OK? “He” would be the pilot of United Flight 274, the plane itself and all souls within. And he looked like he was dropping. He was.

Gabe turned on his pilot voice. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you look out your right window, you will see that United Flight 274 has just challenged us to a race. I’ve turned on the fasten seat belt sign because it just got real.”

I started to wonder. … Is he OK? “He” would be the pilot of United Flight 274, the plane itself and all souls within. And he looked like he was dropping. He was.

As this registered, our own plane ascended sharply and we were rising again, in direct conflict with the “we should be on the ground in 10 minutes” that we had heard eight minutes ago. We couldn’t stop watching the other plane in train-wreck horror. Finally we realized it wasn’t going to combust into a breaking news headline and were left to ponder what happened. Then, the real actual pilot made a real, actual announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry about that — United Flight 273 just triggered our collision avoidance system. There was nothing we could do about it.” I thought we were probably glad they hadn’t tried, and also that this was a very brief explanation for “Yeah, someone messed up and you could have been an NTSB investigation.”

All was well. We have a story to tell. And it turned out to have been United Flight 273 instead of 274, which gave Gabe a notion that he is probably psychic and should hang out a shingle and start wearing a turban and a velvet cape. It also made me wonder.

Why don’t I have an anti-collision system? Why don’t my kids? Like a big inflatable rubber donut airbag bumper that prevents scratching, bruising, paper cuts or spontaneous combustion? I think I need one. It would be great for everyone, except maybe ambulance chasers and pharmaceuticals and insurance companies. But so?

Why do we need to hurt? To make others hurt? To endure and create collisions, calamities, catastrophes?

Let’s ask the experts. Today on our panel we welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the ever-wise Abraham Maslow, and the legendary Vicktor Frankl. Oh, and Kanye West. We need some yang to all that yin.

Mr. Frankl will start us out.

“What is to give light must endure burning.”

Sage wisdom, indeed. Thank you for that. Although presumably you are not speaking in relation to the fiery fuselage of a combusting plane but more metaphorically. Yes. Mr. Maslow?

“It seems the necessary thing to do is not to fear mistakes but to plunge in, to do the best that one can, hoping to learn enough from blunders to correct them eventually.”

Thank you. That is a positively opportunistic point of view, allowing for the possibility of growth and spiritual expansion.

“Na-na-na that that don’t kill me can only make me stronger …”

Kanye, It’s not your turn … Oh, never mind. Yeah, that’s all he’s got. Perhaps His Holiness would like to address that?

“Silence is sometimes the best answer.”

Indeed. Thank you, gentlemen, for being here today.

As I reflect on their answers, I realize that I have been focusing on the wrong question. It is not “why does a collision happen?” but “How do I respond when a collision happens?” It is Victor Frankl who brings me to this conclusion, with the following quote from “Man’s Search For Meaning.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

When simple conflict or much worse happens, what lens do I use to view it? Do I react or do I respond? Can I see the outcome I desire and take the action that will get me there, or am I going to yield to the defaults of fear-based reactions and defenses like anger, victim mentality, criticism or the blame/shame game? We all have the power to choose creation from catastrophe — to be either the pile of ashes or the phoenix rising from it. We wouldn’t have this golden, gleaming opportunity if not for the burning.

If ever the Human Anti-Collision System hits the market, I will choose not to have one. But don’t get me wrong, I’m sure grateful that my Boeing 747 does.

Mari Rose Hale is a Glenwood Springs writer. She blogs at mariroseland.wordpress.com. Semi-Conscious appears on the fourth Tuesday of each month in Body & More.


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