“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” -Ryunosuke Satoro
For me there is probably not a more intense interaction that I can have with humanity than when I become an air traveler. While I am intellectually conscious of the enormity of the world’s population, it is when I move through airports that I experience the vastness of humanity trying to move through space. It is in the midst of the crowds of people, all on their way to somewhere, that the complexity of life on earth becomes transparent.
Beyond the sheer logistics of moving so many people and bags to so many locations at once, just thinking about the relationships, aspirations and responsibilities that fills every one of those lives makes you pause at the enormity of life that this planet holds. As I witnessed the tender separations, the open-hearted welcoming embraces, the business soldiers hurrying on, the families trying to stay together all happening at once in surround sound, I am overcome by the human tribe.
The experience makes me recall a quote by W. A. White: “If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own . . . how much kinder, how much gentler he would be.” This is the one hope we have as we push the limits of the earth’s resources to accommodate us all, that we actually learn to recognize our shared humanity.
I picked up a book in the airport today, called What are You Optimistic About? In which leading thinkers commented on why things are good and getting better. As I am always on the lookout for the positive spin in life, I searched for something to speak to me about the humanity around me. Instead, I read of a sweeping range of the positive scientific trends that are coming our way. But I think that Carl Gustav Jung’s observation that, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” You can see that going on at the airport if you look.