Unless you have been living under a rock recently, you have most likely heard about the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight 370. The Boeing 777 vanished with no distress signal and disabled ACARS on March 8 during a night time flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. 239 people were on board. Since then, the search effort has become a worldwide obsession. 26 countries are now involved in the search efforts. Every news outlet is flooded with updates and stories related to the event. And the plaguing question besides what happened to the plane and all the people aboard is… How the f#*k can a commercial airliner disappear without a trace in today’s technologically overrun world of satellites, radars and tracking devices?
My inbox this week has been flooded with questions about my thoughts regarding what happened to the missing flight. And now, the suffering caused by this event aside, I’m laughing inside. Why? It does not benefit our governments for the people of earth to know that they are well aware of the existence of intelligent life in the universe and that they HAVE in fact detected alien spacecraft. But… I’m laughing to myself because even if you believe there has never been contact between extraterrestrial life and humans, after the disappearance of this aircraft, no one gets to use the fact that we have not "detected" alien spacecraft as a reason to discredit their existence. Why? Because our own basic, archaic technology has proven to us that even IT is capable of going undetected by us. How embarrassing.
Many people want me to use my astral travel capabilities to solve the mystery of what happened to flight 370 and why. I have not responded to that desire for one important reason. Firstly, my theories on what actually happened should not matter. I am a spiritual teacher. And from my perspective, my opinion about what happened will not serve anyone. It does not do any good. Why? By looking for the physical answer to this question, we avoid much more important questions, questions that lead us to a better life. We also avoid the fear that is resident within us that is asking to be healed. To me, this disappearance is an opportunity to see our shadow side clearly.
What is interesting to me is the psychology behind the worldwide fascination and obsession with this story. I am no exception. There is no shame in being fascinated with this story. But why are we so fascinated? It is not the number of people that died that captivates us and makes it so deserving of worldwide attention. Do you remember Rana Plaza? Exactly… only a few of us (if any) know about Rana plaza; even though the death toll from the Rana Plaza incident was 1,129. They died as a result of an eight story commercial building collapsing in Bangladesh. How about American Airlines Flight 191? 258 passengers, 13 crew members and 2 people on the ground were killed when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff. It is the deadliest aviation accident to occur on American soil, and most of us have never heard of it. What does this tell us, it isn’t the loss of life that captivates us and makes this event worthy of all of the search effort.
Even though it is the aircraft with the largest amount of people aboard to ever go missing, this is not the first airplane to disappear and many of those that did disappear, were never found. So what is it about this event that has us all so riveted? The answer is two fold. First, it pulls at our most primal fear of total powerlessness. Second, the event offers no sense of closure. Because of this, it throws us into the discomfort of uncertainty.
The fear of flying is listed as one of the top ten phobias experienced by people across the world. The reason this is such a common fear is that there is no way to maintain bodily integrity as a passenger of a crashing aircraft. You are utterly out of control of your own experience. Most of us do not know how to pilot an aircraft and so, we could not commandeer the plane to save ourselves from a potentially painful and disastrous fate. And so, we are entrusting our safety and lives to someone and something else. If the plane goes down, we all have an image in our head of being stuck in a metal death trap, plummeting to the earth in utter terror, waiting for the impact and potentially the aftermath of impact. It doesn’t get more powerless than that. On top of that, it is an experience that feels all too close to home. Why? Because at this phase of human evolution, with well over 800,000 flights taking place worldwide on a daily basis, most of us will fly in an airplane at least once in our lives. It is an increasingly common mode of travel. This means, a disaster like this does not feel so far away from any of us around the globe. The key here is relatability. A disaster in another country, like a tsunami or a building collapse, is not often relatable to us. We feel as if the likelihood of that tragedy touching our own personal lives is very slim. We also have not experienced anything like it. This makes it both harder to imagine and less scary. But when we are faced with the reality that most of us (no matter where we are from in the world) use airplanes to travel from one place to another, it becomes not only relatable and imaginable, but also very scary because we realize “It could be any one of us”. And to be “lost” or separated from the group, (as we think those passengers are) runs counter to our most basic human needs.
To the physical human, knowledge is safety. We do not fear the unknown itself. This is a lie that we keep propagating. If this were true, a baby would be afraid of everything. What we fear is the known, or I should say that what we fear is what we think we know about the unknown. It just so happens that when we confront the unknown we think we know what the unknown has in store for us. We think that it has pain and death in store for us. We have had so much faith in our technologies and modern inventions that we have become arrogant. We have believed ourselves to be untouchable. This week, many governments and companies and individuals have been rather harshly humbled. We are realizing just how little is truly in our control. Even the search efforts that are taking place in the choppy swells of Indian Ocean right now are proving to us just how small and powerless we are to the very earth we have become convinced we triumph over. This event has made everyone feel powerless. Governments feel powerless to prevent calculated airline attack. Individuals feel powerless to unpredictable tragedy. Airlines feel powerless to customers potentially boycotting their business since the “flaws” in their business have been canvassed for the world. Families feel powerless to find their loved ones. Feeling as if we have solved a problem or solved a mystery, or discovered the truth, makes us feel like we know. And knowing feels safe to us. Governments are run by people. This means they are at the mercy of the human psyche. Businesses are run by people. This means they are at the mercy of the human psyche. Society is run by people. This means society is at the mercy of the human psyche. Humanity is motivated to solve this mystery and bring closure to the event because it has terrorized the human psyche.
The reason we are so obsessed with this story and the reason why we are so driven to find that plane, is because we all need closure. The human psyche needs closure. The fact that we have no closure is what makes this story so horrifying to all of us. The resolution of uncertainty is a basic primal drive within us all. We are tortured by ambiguity. After all, certainty is one of the six basic human needs. It is in fact the most basic human need. It is the most basic human need because it is tied to our survival as a species. Cognitive closure has been a study in human psychology for years.
The famous psychologist Arie Kruglanski identified that our need for cognitive closure consists of two stages. The first called seizing and the second called freezing. When people are confronted with stressful uncertainty, they enter the first stage of attainting closure. In the first stage, people are driven by urgency. The urgency is the need to reach closure quickly. We “seize” whatever information we can, (without necessarily taking the time to verify that information as we otherwise would). In the second stage, we are driven by permanence. Permanence is the need to preserve that closure for as long as possible. We “freeze” our knowledge and then do whatever we can do to safeguard it. This is the reason that we support arguments or latch onto proof that validates our initial viewpoint. And once we’ve frozen our knowledge or opinion for the sake of establishing certainty and closure, it becomes a self-reinforcing loop. Once we’ve seized onto an idea, we remain crystallized at that point. To let go of that strongly frozen perspective, is to lose that secure sense of certainty. So what happens if we committed ourselves to our position by outwardly expressing that position? What happens if we tweet or post or speak about our crystalized perspective?
We crystallize our judgment all the more, so as not to appear inconsistent. If we are presented with opposing proof, we defend our stance to the death. This is why it is hard to reason with people who are using their religious beliefs or political beliefs to create a sense of cognitive closure and certainty in their lives. This is why false rumors start. It is also why they don’t go away easily. It is hard to be open-minded. It is hard to be open minded because it means we can’t use cognitive closure to establish a sense of certainty in our lives, which all too often feel really uncertain and unsafe to us. We are watching this dramatic quest for closure and certainty play itself out in all of our major news outlets right now.
When we do not get closure, it feels impossible to move forward with our lives. This is why the families of everyone aboard flight 370 have collected in Kuala Lumpur to await every new development. And I can tell you that if my own son or friend or husband were on that flight, I’d be there too. But what do we do to get closure when we do not have access to any knowledge that helps us gain any closure? We gain closure by making uncertainty itself the closure. And we look for meaning instead of explanations. Not only will this allow us to release resistance to uncertainty to the degree that the answers that we’ve been asking for will begin to surface, it also allows us to develop spiritually in a dramatically rapid way.
Uncertainty is the only certainty there is. And true security is the result of anchoring oneself to the certainty of uncertainty. When we are faced with uncertainty, we have a great many beneficial coping skills, which take over in order to reestablish a sense of certainty. For example, we may begin to focus on what we can do and what we do have control over instead of on what we don’t have control over and what we are powerless to. Another example is that we may prepare for different possibilities and potentials without getting stuck on one expectation. This planning helps us to remain open and avoid the trap of powerlessness. Another example is that we may seek reassurance from other people. All of these positive, empowering coping skills help us to feel more certain. But by far the greatest spiritual step we can take, is the step of letting go of the attempt to re-establish certainty. We can instead try to anchor ourselves in uncertainty and focus at uncertainty in a way that makes the presence of uncertainty ok. In other words, we can embrace uncertainty itself.
We can use events like this to facilitate a mass healing within the collective human consciousness. I’d like to propose that we use this event to do just that tonight. I propose that we do it, by starting a discussion about uncertainty. I want you to post any part of your perspective that you feel will help the rest of us around the world to make peace with uncertainty; and/or with this particular event. How is it ok to not have all the answers? How is it ok to not know? How is uncertainty good?
Regardless of whether a tragedy takes place in our own backyard or across the world, it is our tragedy. It is our tragedy because we are a collective human family. We can support each other. We can hold hands as we face our fears and we can sooth each other by helping each other to alter our painful perspectives.