Published: January 13th 2010January 13th 2010
AND THE WINNING FLYER IS....
first a true story.
Years ago, in Rabat, Morocco, I traveled around the country and met several Moroccans who lived in or taught at one of the blind schools in that marvelous country. I befriended several of them.
One of the most remarkeable (we'll call him "Mohammed": it's as popular a name as "Michael" in many places in the Arab world) who told me how he had fallen from a three story building, had part of his skull crushed and a good portion of his visual cortex destroyed, and had lost all of his vision.
"And this" Mohammed declared to me, after telling his story"is proof that God exists!".
I was frankly taken aback by his certainty, and I asked him, respectfully, if he could elaborate.
With the particular smile on his face that is usually reserved for a parent explaining one of the given facts of life to a first grader, he replied, "Because I am STILL ALIVE!"
I loved (and still admire) the beauty and simplicity of the answer. I leave the logic to the rationialists in whose camp, alas, I have spent too many solitary evenings inside a tent illumined more by electric light than by live fire...
Oh yeah and then there was the Zen monk (and this tale might be more apocryphal than true) who lived in a one room hut far far away. One night the roof of the monk's hut caught on fire. The roof was destroyed. A villager came up to the monk, and asked him how he was doing.
"Wonderful!" the monk replied. "Much better view of the stars at night!!"
And finally, one true observation from travel last year.
Because I am an Elite Presidential Platinum Medallion Fanny Pants Poo Bah Frequent Flyer, I usualy have the privilege of being one of the first people on an airplane, while the milling herd of serfs, wage slaves, sharecroppers and plebians (in other words, anyone who DOESN'T fly over 100,000 miles a year) stand aside plotting fierce strategies for luggage bin access.
Last November, after I was comfortably seated in First Class, as the flight attendants were plying me with non-alcoholic champagne, chocolate strawberries, messages and erotic poetry, a young man, well dressed, physically fit, maybe in his mid-thirties, entered the plane in a wheelchair, stopped just after coming in from the jet bridge, and quickly set himself down on the floor.
He had no legs.
He began scooting up the aisle to his seat in the back. A couple of the flight attendents, after getting over the shock, offered suggestions so that he wouldn't have to scoot on the floor: perhaps a skateboard? A pillow? Patiently, he explained that he had done this many times before, there wasn't any better method that he had discovered so far, and he thanked them for their concern: indeed, it turned out that HE was in a position where he was trying to make the attendants more comfortable.
Something welled up in me then, at this vision of human courage and the strength of the human will, and the extraordinary way that some of us are able to persevere, and struggle, and inch our way forward in the face of the most daunting challenges... and then I recalled Mohammed's certainty. I think at that moment I understood him for the first time....
THE POINT BEING that some of you... actually ALL of you except for the raffle winner, might be disappointed that you didn't get the flight.
When it became obvious that I wouldn't be getting up to the Soaring Y any time soon so that Nate the Great Who Used to be Eight but is now Nate the Nine Who's Extremelty Fine... and daughter Liz was here at Casa Bella...
Liz and I made all the entries on exactly the same size papers, (there were over 140 entries) folded them four times so that they were sealed, shook them up, dumped them on top of Billie the cat. Billie eventually grabbed one of the entries, Liz opened it, and inside were the initials of the winner.... a Ms. "m.e." who lives on the other side of the country.
So, you have my word, Liz's observation, and Billie's meow that the raffle was honest and straight.
Two of the people who responded to the raffle Q's stood out for their efforts: a Ms. "T.N." and a Ms. "C.E."
T.N got more than 100% of the questions correct (she got extra credit for getting the answers to a couple of particuarly difficult ones, and for the clarity of her research); and C.E. was just a little bit behind. I want to show my appreciation for their effort and deternination, so the Rules Committee has decided that each one of them will receive a copy of a book recommended to me by a friend whom I entirely respect and admire. The book is THE FOUR AGREEMENTS. I highly recommend it to all of you.
May all your travels in 2010 be interesting, or enlightening, or ecstatic.
Let's meet somewhere. Let's live In the Well Of the Heart