Yesterday’s flight to Africa was overbooked. Everyone seems to want to go there. A Delta representative offered me various enticements to give up my seat, and it was tempting. An overcrowded 16 hour plane ride is something to avoid. Especially when a three year old is sitting behind you and loves to kick your seat.
Yet in the midst of enduring this misery, I found what I often do on long trips to other cultures. Peace and joy. Why does this happen so often?
Sometimes I think it’s due to the movie selection they have on long flights nowadays. You have hundreds of films to watch. Because I spend most of my time deprived of popular culture in swamp-east Arkansas, I usually start with the recent releases. Then I try out the foreign films.
On this trip I got to see the critically acclaimed Lady Bird about a girl growing up in Sacramento, the block buster superhero hit Black Panther and a subtitled Japanese film about a weatherman who began preaching to his audience about global warming.
The movies help, but by themselves they would never bring the peace and joy I experience on these flights. Nothing really astounding about them, but they do set the stage for the arrival of peace and joy.
Getting outside the US also contributes. Who wouldn’t move at least a little toward peace by escaping the interminable cacophony of US politicians and pundits? Sometimes a literal wave of relaxation passes over me when I pass over the US border. Leaving the excessive aggression and competition is healthy now and then.
Another factor is anticipating the work I’ll be doing. I come to Africa to help small farmers join together to improve their quality of life. Knowing how much they appreciate my coming and how eagerly they absorb new ideas must be part of the peace and joy these long plane rides bring. The work I do is with people who have few material goods but whose families have survived for hundreds of years on the same plots of ground. They know how to work hard and be satisfied with little worldly income.
They are active and motivated. Some walk five or more miles just to participate in our workshops. They work hard every day just to survive. Their motivation would astound many of today’s Americans. Many of those Americans can hardly be motivated to do more than click a few websites or TV channels. So anticipating the enthusiasm of those small farm families is part of the reason I experience peace and joy at 30,000 feet in a crowded airplane.
But good movies, leaving the US and helping hard-working poor people don’t explain my peace and joy. I even comes over me sometimes in the US without good movies when I’m not helping the poor in the third world.
I’d like to have this peace and joy all the time, but I don’t. Then again, I’m happy I get it at all. Some only get it through drugs. And they come to think it only comes from drugs. They don’t know that all the drugs do is stimulate nerves to release neurotransmitters which are already present and ready to be released in all our bodies. They could learn how their bodies’ nerves will release those neurotransmitters without drugs.
My heart breaks sometimes thinking of the US drug users who can only find a facsimile of true peace and joy. Especially troubling are those who find so little peace and joy that they commit suicide. So many have such powerful potential and so many material blessings, but choose to end their lives in desperation. If only I could show them how to obtain peace and joy naturally.
Peace and joy are so much a part of nature and our nature. Hope, peace, joy, love, kindness are all naturally generated within us. We just have to find out how to stimulate them. Those who artificially stimulate them with drugs just get the result and not the cause. The cause is productive work with other believers in nature. Do enough of that and you will be so thoroughly suffused with a new spirit that nothing can set you back.