I spent the better part of my morning seated in the Pittsburgh airport, enjoying the silent descent of snow and the pleasure of free wi-fi. It was not like any other experience I’ve ever had in an airport: peaceful, in a way that modern life rarely is anymore. There was something about the entire scene that made me feel as if I were glimpsing something transcendent, something bordering on ethereal. The collection of people, all settled and patiently waiting the arrival of our plane (delayed in Atlanta because of the cold there; it was 7 degrees and snowing in the ‘Burgh, and their airport was flinging planes out of there like Vegas blackjack dealer flings cards) were smiling and friendly and overall one might imagine the vast collection of strangers in an airport were really a troupe of friends lounging at a local ski-lodge, unwinding after a long run down a double black diamond.
When the human body is in repose, that is, when it is not slammed full of tension and noise and the hurriedness that can sometimes be modern life, it can be a wonder to behold, capable of any number of astonishing feats. I watched, absorbed, as the various people around me contorted themselves into what must have been comfortable positions for the tiny airport chairs (otherwise, why would you bend yourself silly?) and lounged away. No one angrily calling someone else to bitch about the weather. No one storming the ticketing desk to demand an explanation for our delayed flight. No one stalking back and forth on the concourse raising cain over something beyond control. It was transfixing in a way that nothing has been lately; it was an invitation to consider what life would be like if we could, on a regular basis, just have a few moments where we lose control and don’t scramble like demoniacs to find it.
I felt the strange sensation of being happy; not just amused or momentarily not irritated, but genuinely happy, despite my tiredness and the several hundred miles still to go before stepping into my home. In this little airport (Pittsburgh, for the record, has a kick-butt airport – free wi-fi, no crowds, plenty of good food and seats) that used to be a farm, I actually felt an almost pastoral serenity that the hurry-hole we call Hartsfield could never hope to match. And watching the people around me, relaxed, contorted, at peace, I felt a genuine sense of things being, for the moment, okay with the world. When we are at peace with our surroundings and ourselves, the human being can be a rather pleasant creature, myself included. It was nice to catch even a smidge of what can be in the realm of human relations. It made heaven, a reality in which I very much believe, seem that much more tangible, that much more present.
Every once in a while, it is nice to be reminded that what I believe in my heart is not a pipe dream, not some story well-told to make my days go by a little easier; it is, in point of fact, what C.S. Lewis once said: supremely True. And so all men must either accept it or reject it; but sitting in Pittsburgh at 9:30 this morning, a sometimes challenging Truth was writ large via hope in repose, waiting for a flight, perhaps not to Atlanta, but someplace truly heavenly.