Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Religious Experience, yes god likes Vegas too.

It is my firm belief that there are very few truely interesting topics of conversation. In my list are politics, philosophy, religion, music and art. If you can't somehow bring in one or more of these topics it might be hard to hold my attention. Today, sitting at lunch the topic of religion came up. Invariably when this happens, someone will fall back on the "Religion, isn't a polite topic of conversation" schtick. If you are worried about loosing a friend because you might disagree on something, then maybe you shouldn't be friends in the first place.

Despite one person's objection we as a group forged ahead. As part of this conversation someone brought up the idea of a "religious experience", and whether anyone had an exerienced that they felt qualified. I guess it might help to define what I think is meant by a religious experience. I think of it as an experience where you are possesed with an overwhelming sense that there is something much greater than yourself out there, and you are momentarily stupified and overawed by the sense of it.

Some people have this easy. They have kids. I can't tell you how many people have described to me the process of watching their child go from being a little more than a poop and drool factory to something capable of rational thought as being somewhat miraculous. I can certainly understand this. I've watched my own niece with a sense of wonder and amazement at what she once was, and what she is becoming.

I've had what to me felt like it must have been a religious experience. The only problem is that it was on a flight leaving Vegas. A cruel joke at my expense is left as an assignment for the reader. This was my first and only trip to Vegas. I was being sent there for a work function. I arrived at 10 in the morning and went straight to the convention center. I spent a hectic and long day making sure that a poorly organized exhibit for one of my clients went off with as little trouble as possible. I finished up at 7 that evening. Took a taxi back to the airport. All I saw of the city was from the window of my cab. The only time I was on a casino floor was crossing it to the restroom. No shows, no slots, no $7.95 all you can eat Lobster and Steak buffet. Nothing. Once at the airport I picked up a sandwich and got on the plane. By this point you are probably saying some religious experience. You're a retard. Wait a second. I'm not there yet.

It's now 9 in the evening and I've just finished an exhausing 16 hour day. I'm in my seat, looking out the window, and the plane begins to taxi. Soon it's taking off. As it's taking off, the pilot flips on the insanely bright headlights that sit under the wings. These planes engines are now bathed in bright light, and surrounded by pitch darkness. As the plane lifts, I look past the wings to the skyline and see the Luxor hotel light up, as I look down and I see the engines wobbling back and forth. This is where it began. At first I was terrified. Those things shouldn't be wobbling back and forth. Holy shit. They are about to drop off. I'm going to die. Then I start to think, no they have to be able to move, otherwise they would snap off from the stress. I then start thinking about the fact that the engines are attached by bushings and gimbals. A person had to spend hours to design those pieces. They were then tested validated, and sent off to be produced. Besides those pieces, every piece on that engine recieved the same treatment. The same goes for the wing it's attached to, and the body of the plane itself. Beyond that there's the entire airport infrastructure, and the air traffic control system that keeps us all safe when we are flying. Outside the wing is the Luxor hotel, with a light on top so bright that it can be seen from space. Meanwhile I'd had breakfast in one city, lunch in another, and will go to bed in the first. Both cities thousands of miles apart. At that moment it struck me. The enormity of the society that I'm part of. Not just society, the whole human cultural organism. We've shaped, molded and altered the face of the planet and the space around the planet so that the effects will be seen for millions of years. I'm not making a value judgement about those effects. Some are good and some are bad. It's just the enormity of it all. I sat there for like 10 minutes unable to do anything but stare at the engine under the wing and marvel at what I was involved in. Yeah I know it's not conventional, and I know it's not the "face of god" or anything like that, but I was certainly moved.

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