Our journey to somewhere distant for the holidays might have prompted an airport experience this week. They are remarkable places, offering experiences sometimes referred to as liminal, or threshold-like. Time spent on the threshold, the place in between, can be uneasy, and often interesting.
Anthropologists of the future would be fascinated with the Airport, documenting its hard landscape, striped, with small blue lights and a tower. They would enter its culture, and its many rituals. There’s one for welcoming newcomers, involving exchanging of heavy objects on wheels, for small papers with obscure codes. Newcomers must undergo rituals of examination, involving passing through a sacred portal, one by one. This place is clearly holy ground, as each entrant takes off his/her shoes. Some special individuals obtain an additional blessing with the passing of wands over their bodies, arms outstretched in a gesture of openness. Once admitted into the inner sanctum, the candidate is then further purified during a time of extended meditation in the great hall, with periodic teachings spoken over microphones. The Airport is clearly a place of life transition.
In the meditation hall, persons unfamiliar with one another exchange information about their journeys, while complaining about the costly sacramental coffee. Small furry creatures in zippered containers receive joyful visitations of strangers, while others regard the small humans strapped in reclining baskets, with considerable anxiety. Some who appear burdened by distress, seek out one of the large black upholstered thrones in the passages of the meditation hall, where, upon making an offering of coins, they sit, and some sort of cosmic vibration is invoked. This appears to console them, and prepare them for the next phase of their journeys.
The Airport is a place of temporary hospitality. Persons who meet in the great hall of meditation at the Airport are anonymous to one another, and the connection of their life journeys is not expected to occur again. In such a place, it is possible to be vulnerable with complete strangers, responding enthusiastically to fellow travelers with whom they would not exchange eye contact, if encountered in a flea market. In this holy condition of Airport transience, persons seem ready to confide information normally not freely shared, about discordant relationships, career dissatisfaction, fear of flying, and trepidations about the family reunion on the other end of the day’s journey.
Those who are in the midst of the journey have dressed for easy passage, and many have left behind the signs of their status, in their customary lives on solid ground. The Airport shows awareness that its spiritual pilgrims may thus have become disoriented, and it provides a thoughtful assortment of garments, sacramental coffee mugs, and shot glasses emblazoned with the name of the Airport and its place. In the case of Baton Rouge, the icons of dancing alligators and black and gold Saints are prominent, suggesting that this is indeed a spiritually enlightened place, and a reminder to prepare for uncertainty. The journey itself, after all, is predictable in its destination, but not in how one may be transformed by it.
Safe journeys to all, this holiday season.