At the terminal

Sunday evening, March 7

I’m in Terminal A at Logan Airport, waiting with a Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate and a bunch of other tired-looking humans. I’m expecting a friend who works at Duke, flying home to New England as that school begins spring break.

I actually like the airport. It is a little bit of time outside of time, place outside of place. It doesn’t belong to any part of life except moments of transition and passage, major or minor. We’re either making those transitions ourselves, or helping others to make them. When you’re the helper, this time feels made for contemplation, for assessing where I was before I reached the ‘terminal,’ – for the moment, in the world’s original sense, ‘the end,’ the termination of the journey. In a small way, a visit here is a stepping aside, not unlike a retreat, though minimized. Where have I come from? Where is the journey taking me? Do I have a sense of movement, of purpose, of proceeding toward a goal?

It also invites reflection on humanity. The people passing by, pulling luggage, waiting around a baggage belt, sitting together looking at a laptop screen: who are they? Where is their journey taking them? Will our paths cross again, perhaps more significantly than they do this evening? Each and every one of them matters in the sight of God. Do they matter in my sight? Do I really ‘see’ them at all? Especially in comparision to the Eye of the All-Compassionate, All-Understanding One?

And this is a place of order. Everything has a place and is in that place. Every person, every bag, every scrap of identifying, enabling paper. And if anything is out of place, disordered, there is a place to put it in its lack of order: Lost Baggage, Oversize Baggage, Lost Objects, even lost children. Everything is screened. Announcements encourage the keeping of order in every fashion. In the face of all this it’s no wonder that these are places into which those often called ‘terrorists’ choose to sow massive disorder, even chaos. In this setting, that break in the ordered and expected feels harder and heavier than elsewhere. That chaos gives a new and darker meaning to the word ‘terminal.’

So here I sit, obviously thinking too much. I see my reflection in the massive windows facing the street. I’m unclear, but visible. Beyond the world moves at its usual break-neck pace. Out there the retreat is suddenly over. Back into time, and behind time. Back into place and onward we go.

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