I have just read the first chapter of 'The Essential Dalai Lama' and as I sat here, thinking about it, it occurred to me that the inside of a plane epitomises exactly the problems of the western world. Instead of groups of people interacting, we have hundreds of individuals more or less silent, each confined to a small space, avoiding contact with each other, but rather spending many hours totally absorbed by the electronic screen provided for each passenger by the airlines these days. There are dozens of movies, hundreds of games and thousands of songs, divided into genre or artist. Then there are people like me who have laptops to fiddle about on or ipods to plug into or books to get lost in. We are in crowded isolation.
Every day hundreds of thousands of people sit for extended periods on international flights, doing nothing productive and refraining from interaction with the people next to them. I can think of a few ways to make the trip seem faster, encourage conversation and/or do something useful. There could be some registration of interest buttons on each console which invite you to join a like-minded group, through your headphones, if need be.
If the seats could be turned like in trains, and a narrow table set between, people could play cards, for example. Anyone interested in giving a short talk from their seat could have the talk piped to listeners via a certain channel and discussions could be encouraged. Or anyone wishing to participate in chat could give a quick resume of why they are travelling and an anecdote or 2 from their past.
Passengers could perform simple tasks and feel our time has not been wasted. Maybe we could fill in surveys, or do other paperwork relevant to our skills. We could grind spices, make gifts for orphans, mend clothes for the needy, write emails to lonely people in old folks homes.... anything. The Dalai Lama says we need a spiritual revolution, we need to re-establish our bonds and links with the community, we need to help others. What better time to do it than whilst sitting in a plane for 15 hours, at 11,583m and going 600km/hour!
After reading a couple more chapters I am getting to the crux of the human dilemma. We all seek happiness, which is understandable but most of us are going about it the wrong way. It is fruitless thinking that getting more of anything will make us happy when it is giving more that really makes us happy. When you meet someone who gives of themselves, everyone around them feels good. They have compassion and a sense of caring. Compassion, the Dalai Lama says, opens an inner door through which we can communicate with others with ease, heart to heart. He does not advocate we should be selfless. Giving makes the compassionate person feel good and the Dalai Lama points out that it is in this way that each of us can be selfish, in a positive way.
Compassion goes hand in hand with inner peace. When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved but also helps us to develop inner happiness and peace. Inner peace gives us the strength to deal with situations with reason and calm because our mental tranquility remains undisturbed. Inner peace allows conflicts to be dealt with, with compassion and does not allow hatred to develop. Only by spreading inner peace can we ever hope to achieve world peace.
....not exactly a vegetable gardening post but rather the thoughts of a vegetable gardener who enjoys nothing more than giving and sharing....