Simple Things/ Lang Kenneth Haynes
It’s easy to be calm and unperturbed while sitting in a cave separated from the rat race. The challenge is to maintain that equilibrium while
in the middle of the hustle and bustle of survival, vehicle fumes, home foreclosures and an economy that’s tanking at precisely the moment you
thought you had a toe-hold on how the money game worked.
We tend to enjoy flying the quiet and smooth skies in large metallic birds looking down at the patchwork of farms and cities below with
people crawling around like ants at a picnic. We feel so exalted. Literally above it all. But many of us hate taking off, because taking off works
best when facing the wind, rather than having it at our backs, and the ride is necessarily bumpy. There’s no way around it. A certain amount of
roughness is required to reach the place where the flying is smooth and even. Ask any goose. Ask any bird that flies. Tailwinds are great when
you’re airborne, but headwinds make taking off easier.
Just about anybody can stay on a horse while it’s walking. It’s not very exhilarating but it’s pretty easy to do. You can ride a real horse or a
merry-go-round horse at an amusement park. The rides will be comparable and predictable. Trying to stay on a real horse while it’s trotting is
another thing all together. Trotting is a bumpy affair. It requires balance and a unique blend of confidence and humility. To do it successfully
I imagine that you’d have to essentially become one with the animal while providing minimal human direction. I’m, of course, just making this
up. I’m a lousy horseback rider. I haven’t figured out the correct balance between controlling and letting go. Riding stables often require riders to
wear helmets these days. Probably because of people like me. Sorry for the inconvenience. Cantering is cool, though. It’s smooth and flowing.
Not choppy like trotting. Kind of like flying in an airplane at high altitudes. Going with the wind instead of against it like you do at take-off.
There’s a common theme that seems to run through arriving at a place where one is comfortable and the theme has many parts. To have a
chance at reaching cruising altitude, it is necessary to leave the ground. And in order to leave the ground, you have to take off. Taking off is
bumpy and landing is not that much better. One possible advantage is that, in landing, you can recall the turbulence that you experienced in
taking off and rejoice in the fact that you lived to tell about it.
Walking a horse is boring and it’s necessary to trot before you canter. If any of this is true, you accept the inevitability of trotting before you
ever climb on the back of a horse. So when it comes time to trot you won’t be surprised. In fact, you may very well find that trotting is not nearly
as wretched an experience as you had imagined. If trotting is, in fact, the worst case scenario then cantering will be all that much sweeter.
Believe it or not, this banter about airplanes and horses is perhaps related to the more pressing matters of the day. If you’ve just lost a job
you know what turbulence is. You’ve had your priorities rearranged, blown around and bent and twisted into forms that may not even be
recognizable. Hurricanes and tornadoes can wreak similar havoc. Some tragedies are man-made, like Ponzi schemes, Wall Street tricks and
factory closings. Others are acts of nature, like some floods, tidal waves and earthquakes. And through it all we have basic choices to make —
different gods to proclaim and pay attention to. The gods represented by dead presidents on green paper that fill foreign or domestically-owned
big banks or the god — by whatever name — that has graced us with our next breath. That choice is ours to make.
There’s one thing that’s wonderful about turbulence. It’s all around us all the time. Sometimes it manifests in dramatic, unavoidable and
horrendous ways — like big factories that pull the plug on small towns and the trickle-down effects of boarded up restaurants, foreclosed homes
and escalating unemployment; or tidal waves and earthquakes that kill thousands of people outright and leave countless others to suck
precious air through cracks in rubble. At other times it makes itself known in quieter, almost imperceptible ways. Turbulence is a constant force
that beckons or demands us to come out and play the way our little friends did years ago. It makes some sense to practice working with
turbulence in small seemingly inconsequential ways in order to help prepare ourselves for inevitable turbulence that will visit us at non-
prescribed times. Here’s a very small example: I was recently in the process of figuring out which bills to pay, which ones had already been
paid, which invoices and payments had crossed in the mail, the dates that assorted services had been started or stopped and other exercises in
stretching available dollars. I was in a state of fear because I knew that I would not have sufficient money to pay all the bills in full. I felt myself
shrinking like gonads in a cold lake. I convinced myself that a bill collector lurked on the other side of each ring of the phone or knock at the
door. I snapped out of this way of being long enough to realize that by attempting to avoid negative consequences by not answering the phone or
door I was also avoiding possible positive occurrences. I laughed to myself and left the house to run an errand. But I left a note on the door
before I left saying that I’d be right back. The note was to Oprah Winfrey. Was her visit expected or planned? No. But why not? It could have
happened. And what did my audacious hope cost me? A much needed second to laugh at myself.
May we have the collective strength to run with the wind blowing directly in our faces as we feel our feet leave the ground. May we
welcome the turbulence that is sure to come with the knowledge and belief that effortless flight is our legacy. And yes. We must be audacious
enough to hope for and work towards effortless flight. May we remember that there is a force greater than we possess individually as we sit on
the backs of powerful horses with muscles of unimaginable strength contracting and stretching as we appear to fly through fields of tall wheat
swaying gently in the rising sun. To travel this course called life tied to the ground with weights around our necks, bruising our knees and
elbows on the jagged rocks of dried-out river beds, resting only to gossip mindlessly about all the issues we choose to not engage in useful
ways — is flat-out boring. This is my opinion.
If we relish rather than avoid turbulence, we are indeed in a glorious time. Al Sharpton and Rush Limbaugh are filling the international
airwaves with a dispute that is allegedly about National Football League ownership. We all know, at some level, that the argument is about
much more than the NFL. President Barrack Obama is making conscious efforts to walk directly into the wind on several airport runways at the
same time. Why? Because he knows that there are only two choices. One is to stay the course with the prevailing wind at your back which
renders the take-off interminably long, if it happens at all. This works fine if you like the ground and the direction you are traveling. The other
choice is to face the wind with the understanding that lift-off will occur faster in this posture and that the ride will be necessarily bumpy until
cruising altitude is reached. I prefer the second choice. Choose the breeze of health care. The wind of racism. The hurricane of war. The tsunami
of unemployment. The quiet before the storm of foreclosure. Select whatever turbulence appeals to you and practice working with it, so that
when hardship shows up at your door unannounced you can greet her as a friend because you have met her before.