Terminal Time

The phrase, “Terminal Time” has a dire sound, but as the photo below should make clear, this post is not about terminal illness. It’s about terminal, as in airports; not the end of life, but the end of patience.

Neon passageway, O'Hare Airport, 2013 by Nicola. CC By 2.0

Neon passageway, O’Hare Airport, 2013 by Nicola. CC By 2.0

The subject comes from the WordPress Daily Prompt for June 10, You’re at the airport, your flight is delayed for more than six hours, and none of your electronic devices are working. How do you pass the time?

Like millions of others, I’ve been there on several occasions. I think I was still in my teens the first time I got snowed in at O’Hare. Since Chicago’s airport has been the scene of my most dramatic delays, let’s imagine what we can do there to pass the time in an unwired kind of way.

1) Buy a paperback. This almost goes without saying, but since most airport bookstores don’t carry Moby Dick, here is a chance to indulge our guilty pleasures, whatever they may be. No one blames you for reading trash when you’re stuck at O’Hare.

2) Walk or ride the escalator through the neon passageways. If you’re with a companion, one of you can say, “Whoa, dude!” and the other can reply, “Psycedelic!”

3) Eat something. O’Hare has a huge variety, from cinnabuns, to Big Macs, to build-your-own-salads. Go to a bar if it suits you, but before you dip into the beer nuts, remember the opening scene of Contagion, with Gwenneth Paltrow doing just that.

4) Work a puzzle. Mary and I spent a happy hour doing that on the ground in Philadelphia last summer. She is crossword fan, with much experience and several dictionaries. I know lots of nerd expressions and assorted trivia, so we compliment each other.

5) People watch #1: Spot an interesting character and work out the plot of your next (or first) novel.

6) People watch #2: Figure which of your fellow travelers are aliens, as in Men In Black extra-terrestrials. Like the woman I saw with a dog in a pink tutu. This is true! She was talking to the dog, who looked absolutely miserable, while everyone tried to look away. I’m sure the dog came from a more intelligent planet than its owner.

7) Walk around. What a concept! You’ll feel better, and if you decide to be brisk, you can even get in some aerobics to work off those pizza slices.

8) Practice meditation. It’s a challenge to stay focused when you’re tired, annoyed and distracted, but that makes it interesting for brief periods of time.

9) Buy a notebook and write your next blog post longhand. Soon enough you’ll get your smartphone recharged.

10) If you’re gregarious, strike up a conversation. I’ve mentioned a few opening line suggestions like,  “Snow sucks, huh?”  Or, “Psychedelic!”  Or, “That poor dog. I hate tutus!”

You get the idea, and I’m sure you can add many more of your own. Maybe this post will help someone during the summer travel season. Now all I have to do is hope the lords of karma are kind, and I won’t have to eat my own cooking anytime soon!

Who would you choose to write your biography?

Although I enjoy reading and mulling over the WordPress Daily Writing Prompts, I’ve never used one as a subject before.  That changed on March 11 with a post called Ghostwriter by blogger Michelle W. who asked, “If you could have any author – living or dead – write your biography, who would you choose?”  The answer for me is Carl Jung, and it has been fruitful to remember why.

When I was in high school, a teacher who was a mentor to me said, “You should really study psychology.  Not all that behaviorist crap, but Jung.”  As a college freshman, I remembered his words when I spotted a copy of Man and His Symbols, an introduction to Jung’s ideas that he began and his close colleagues finished after his death in 1961.  After that, I read his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.  These are excellent books to get the gist of his thought.

Dr. Carl Jung, 1875-1961

In our fast-food world, where medication and brief therapy are the norms, Jungian analysis survives at the margins.  Two key exceptions, where Jung’s ideas entered the mainstream, come to mind.  The Meyer-Briggs Personality Profile is structured on his theory of psychological types; even the words, introversion and extroversion were his.  And through one of his patient’s contact with Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Jung’s insistence on the psyche’s spiritual orientation found its way to the core of 12 step programs.

More more widely known are Jung’s contributions to the study of literature and folklore.  The theory of archetypes, which found expression in areas like Joseph Campbell’s work on the hero myth, were first stated for our times by Jung.

All these credentials, however impressive, are not the reason I’d choose him as a biographer.  Here’s something he said in a lecture in London in 1939:

“We have no symbolic life, and we are all badly in need of the symbolic life. Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul – the daily need of the soul, mind you! And because people have no such thing, they can never step out of this mill – this awful, banal, grinding life in which they are ‘nothing but.’ . . . These things go pretty deep, and no wonder people get neurotic. Life is too rational; there is no symbolic existence in which I am something else, in which I am fulfilling my role, my role as one of the actors in the divine drama of life.”

When I first read these words, at about the age of 20, I recognized a kindred spirit, one who could articulate things I only felt and struggled with.  I read the words now and still feel the sense of kinship.

There’s not that much in my outer life to write about.  Any biographer I’d hire would have to be the kind of person who looks beneath the surface and understands that it’s really about the effort to find one’s role “as one of the actors in the divine drama of life.”

If you could have anyone do it, who would you pick to write your biography?