I am struck by the passionate language of Shakespeare and will openly claim that he has the extraordinary gift of peering into my very soul and exposing my messy emotions that define my humanness and run my life. I forget that as a man “not for an age but for all time” that there have been 400 years of individuals each identifying with Shakespeare’s work in this same way. We absorb the emotions felt by King Lear or by Hamlet, immediately connect them to people and situations in our own worlds, yet somehow forget that Shakespeare himself was inspired by another, and that each person who reads it connects it to their own lives. We go on in this selfish ignorance, but then sometimes have revealed to us our own hidden unity, our participation in this universal “club,” and come to grips with our insignificance. This revelation does not typically come through literature, but is always the most striking at airports.
I believe in the power of airport perspective. Airport perspective is humanity perspective. Airport perspective is self-worth perspective. Airport perspective goes beyond walking off of the jetway into the terminal of Chicago-O’hare and merely seeing hundreds of preoccupied travelers rushing to various gates. It is even more than noticing the sleepy sand-colored soldier stretched across the blue leather chairs, or the frazzled mother corralling her toddlers, or the frustrated suit-clad businessman pacing on his cell phone. It is believing that the exhausted soldier is waiting for his connecting flight home from serving three years in Iraq. It is imagining how the harried mother is anxiously counting the minutes until the wheels hit the ground and the kids are back at Valleyview Elementary, and it is listening closer to hear that the businessman is talking to his mother-in-law about what she wants for Christmas.
This may not seem so revolutionary, for how is it different than the typical assortment of people at the mall? But this is not your local pizza joint whose occupants live the same small town lives; it’s the combination of rural, urban, foreign, familiar, every walk and every region connecting at this same transitory point. Then the significance of the digital departure signs reading “Milwaukee,” or “Moscow,” or “Tokyo,” are multiplied by the sheer number of people milling around with their own distinct destination, with their own new chapter of their story waiting to be written at that place. Suddenly you are crushed by this pressing weight of humanity… and insignificance. Overwhelmed by the separate future of each surrounding individual calling him to his plane, it is at this moment questions of purpose, of separation from the rest, of how to claim your right to Shakespeare’s themes arise from amid the internal heaviness.
I don’t want my story to blend in among the rest. I don’t want to just flow in and out of life like the constant stream of people through the security check. I want to live with purpose. I want to live with airport perspective.