Mind blown. Paradigm shifted. Consciousness awakened. Sanity questioned! This is what is racing through my mind as I sit staring at the guy next to me - a DJ from San Fransisco - who has just told me very seriously that Table Mountain is actually a giant tree stump. This comes after he has told me that the moon is a man-made machine, and that aliens are running Hollywood.
(Yep, this is another one of those posts about conversations with guys on planes. And yes, once again, by the end of it, I was encouraged to take drugs).
An unlikely conversation
I had been sitting next to an elderly couple near the front, but after discovering that they couldn’t speak a word of English, and watching them drift off to sleep before the plane had even left the ground, I realised that being lodged between them and the window was going to be a bit of a problem. I did not look forward to waking up a bad-tempered septuagenarian every time I wanted to stretch or relieve myself – so I decided to head to the back of the plane, where the aisles were dotted with numerous empty seats.
I felt rather guilty plonking myself on the very last row, one seat away from a young man who no doubt thought he had scored a three-seater where he could stretch his legs and get a decent sleep. I was about to bury my head in my notebook and my ears in my headphones, when I realised that I hadn’t had a proper conversation with anyone for the last 20 hours or so. Traveling is a lonely business, especially in the vast halls of international airports, and so one often welcomes a friendly smile and a “Hi, how are you?” (Also, I learned from my last interesting conversation on a plane that these things are worth pursuing – for the new knowledge, the challenging opinions, and, if anything, the sheer amusement of it all).
I like to think I am open minded enough to have a decent conversation with a stranger, even if he or she has a completely different world view to mine. Boy, I was never ready! At first I was intrigued by this energetic young fellow who spoke of how to achieve the ultimate happiness (through giving – I totally believe that); karma (okay, sure, what goes around comes around) and the genius blueprint of the natural world (yep, I like trees and flowers, too). But then things started to get really weird. He started telling me how water is really a super-computer from the future, that the human body is really just billions of pixels put together in the greater algorithm of the matrix, and that “they” removed the caps from the pyramids so we can no longer harness their dynamic power.
You need to understand that this was a serious conversation. Here I was, incredulously drinking in all the words coming out of his mouth, waiting any second for him to quip in with a “Ha ha, just kidding – I really got you there!” But it never came … It slowly dawned on me that I was talking to someone who genuinely, absolutely believed that Obama and the royal family are from a reptilian bloodline, and that the Hilary Clinton we see is not the real person, who is really locked up somewhere in a vegetative state.
I’m not being entirely mocking – hey, for all the fake news and lies out there, I’m starting to question everything I know, too. But I have never before encountered someone so out of mainstream thinking, to the point that everything they say sounds like a childhood fantasy. I was searching for the signs of fidgeting, sniffing, giggling or a frantic tone – anything to assure me that no normal person would ever believe these strange ideas. Nope, they weren’t there. This guy was legit, 100% in his rational mind. No weirdness about him whatsoever. Completely normal.
So now I’m thinking, geez, if this is how I feel talking to someone so seemingly radical (and let’s be honest, downright whacky), we have to give credit to the people who took Jesus seriously back in His day. I mention this to my companion.
“Oh, yeah, Jesus was the man!”
Oh no, let’s hear what he has to say about this …
I will spare you, dear readers, the theories that poured out about Jesus – but rest assured that he treated him with same respect and admiration as does much of the world – both religious and secular – albeit for very different reasons.
I don’t think I have ever smiled so much while talking to another person. I couldn’t help it! Although I didn’t believe a word he said and internally questioned his sanity at every point in the conversation, he had a good energy about him.
Eventually we found some middle ground in intelligent design, spirituality and the greater good – although it was difficult, because while we spoke about the same concepts, he did so from a “supercomputer” reality and I from a spiritual reality. What I loved about it though is that we both acknowledged mutual truths. Instead of calling him crazy, getting up and sitting somewhere else to save my sanity (as I assure you most people would have done – and at many points I considered doing myself), I appreciated his views for what they were: his views. In the end I actually felt that I’d had an entertaining, enlightening and uplifting conversation. We need more of these in a world where polarised, over-intellectualised conversations with people who think just like us are we all we ever get. When last did you have a conversation about aliens?
What you think you see isn't always what you get
Do you know what the weirdest part of this experience was? He asked me to estimate his age. I hesitantly mumbled “26, maybe 27?”, embarrassed that he may very well turn out to be 24 or so. This is what he told me:
“I’m old enough to be your grandfather. I’m 50 years old.”
I burst out laughing in his face! Fine, have your crazy view of the world – but don’t blatantly lie to me. You cannot tell me that this fresh-faced, smooth-skinned, toned young man is 50. Nope. No, sorry. Not even plastic surgery could do that for you.
He rummaged around in his bag and confidently showed me a little green book – his passport.
I have never been so dumbstruck in my life. There it was: Born 1969. Sure, he was 48 and not 50 – but once you get to that age, same thing, right? I felt so rude just staring at him gob-smacked. I could feel a fit of giggles bubbling up inside. Just picture the human brain short circuiting: that was me.
I asked him what his secret was. He told me that it all came down to the water molecules (those little “supercomputers” making up 70% of our body mass). Apparently these respond to what we tell them – if you speak to them with love and positivity, they form beautiful geometric patterns. If you speak to them negatively and constantly think energy-zapping thoughts, their forms jumble up. (Believe it or not, there are scientific experiments on this. Containers holding water were labelled with contradicting words like “love” and “hate” and sure enough, the molecules formed different shapes according to the emotion behind the words).
“We’re essentially made up of water,” he said, “and water responds to what we tell it. So I tell myself that I’m 24. I feel 24 and I look 24. In fact, time is just a human construct – so I am 24!”
Now I’ve always believed in the power of positive thinking, but certainly not to this extent. All this techno-spiritual water science was too far of a stretch for me. But I couldn’t deny it – this guy had thought himself into looking young. A bit of research after the flight also revealed that he isn't just any DJ, but is one of the most distinguished in the United States.
If there is anything I will take away from this experience, it’s two things:
You are what you think you are. Many people fill their heads with knowledge, develop their talents and become decently intelligent human beings; but few ever consciously take the time to train their thought patterns. Our attitude will always manifest in our words, the people we surround ourselves with, the opportunities we take and don’t take, and the general course of our life. This simple truth seems to be unfathomable to most people. Or if it is fathomable, they conveniently choose to ignore it.
Don’t just learn to be open-minded. Learn to be infinitely, ridiculously, inspiringly open minded! This does not mean, however, that you have to weaken your own values and convictions. If anything, exposure and appreciation of radically different people forces you to think out of your comfort zone and often strengthens the way you feel about yourself. The basis of how we understand the world will always be subjective, so I am not going to ridicule a 48-year-old man who believes that aliens are controlling the government. For all we know, he may be right – we certainly seem to have had an invasion of loud-mouthed, blonde creatures in the governments of America, Britain and France.
In conclusion, as I sit on this 16-hour flight to San Francisco, I once again urge all my friends to start conversations with strangers. Forget the paranoid isolationism in which we have been taught to live. We are all human beings. Find something in common with the one sitting next to you, and prepare to be blown away!