When I watch people in public places, it always amazes me to see how everyone is walking around, seemingly dead sure about everything. This reminds me of an incident that happened on my last flight to Delhi on the way back from the United States. From San Francisco to Europe, there were some hydraulic issues with the airplane, and it took off an hour and a half late. The last two nights before flying out, I had barely slept. After I had gone through all the news magazines and stuff, I decided to sleep. As someone who appreciates machines, and even more as an aviator, I am always sensitive to the sound of engines. I was fast asleep. Then suddenly, I felt the usual roar of the engine was not there. I sat up. The engine on the other side was roaring; on my side, it was silent. I opened the window and looked – the engine was spinning like a turbo fan.
I immediately called the hostess. She came, and I said, “The engine is out – why didn’t you tell us?” She said, “Ahh, I’ll call the captain,” and she went away. Then the captain came, and in a thick German accent, he said, “no problem.” I asked again, “The engine is out – why didn’t you tell us?” “No-no, no problem. We will have a safe landing. We are just a little slow, that’s all.” I said, “At what speed are we travelling?” “Oh, we are just doing about two hundred twenty knots.” This aircraft is supposed to do nearly five hundred knots.
I asked, “How late will we be?” He said, “Maybe about four hours, but no problem.” I said, “‘No problem’ – all right.” I took off my blazer and wore a t-shirt, just in case I had to swim in the Atlantic. I had not eaten anything. I asked the hostess to bring all the chocolates she had and ate up everything. I reckoned that if the plane touches down, I have enough rest, the right kind of clothing, enough energy, some chance, and I went to sleep. I thought the airplane might yaw into the airport. But about a little over four hours later, the pilot made a perfect landing. I thought that’s skillful.
Most people on an aircraft are not really aware that they are forty thousand feet above the ground in a tin can. When they think about the airplane, it is in terms of “It didn’t take off yet; it didn’t land yet. It’s five minutes late. My phone is not working.” They don’t really know a bloody tin can is flying in the sky with three hundred people. If out of thousands of things that are there in the aircraft, one small thing doesn’t work, all these three hundred people could evaporate, including yourself. Every time you get on an airplane, you should know that. Something should tingle within you, and you should enjoy it.
Once, when I got onto a small plane somewhere in India, someone told me, “It’s monsoon time. There is going to be a lot of turbulence. You must wear the seat belt.” I said, “Don’t worry – I enjoy the turbulence.” “Hehehe,” he laughed. I said, “Why are you laughing?” He said, “I also enjoy it.” You living without being conscious of what you are getting into gives you a certain bliss. Ignorance is bliss. But the best thing about life is to know all those things and to still do it. There is a different kind of joy to it.
People are trying to create a false sense of certainty in their lives by telling themselves or each other fanciful stories. You can call them what we want – sometimes scriptures, sometimes religion, sometimes a love affair. You are telling each other fanciful stories to somehow get through life. But when life knocks you on your head, suddenly these things fall apart, and you are confused and fearful. Fear, because you have come down to reality. It’s a blessing to come down to reality. If you have been going the wrong way and suddenly you realize you are confused, it is a good thing.
Let’s say you are walking in the jungle, and you know the way. But then you realize you don’t really know where you are going. You don’t know which is east, west, north, or south. When you are confused, the first thing is to stop and look. Pay attention to every little detail. Maybe somewhere, there is an indication which way to go. See how the sunlight is falling, or, if it is night, read the stars; look for a landmark, or at least watch which way the elephant dung goes. It may not take you to a city but at least to the water. If you are confused, don’t get into a tizzy and run all over the place.
The whole world is going through struggle and confusion, but how many will take a step in the right direction? Confusion is better than idiotic conclusions. Be glad that at least you are confused, rather than being a fanatic who is sure that he or she will go to heaven. When you are confused, you are fearful because you realize you were living with a foolish certainty, without knowing. When you suddenly realize you don’t know a thing about life, fear arises. You not knowing anything about life is not a new phenomenon. It is just that your silly conclusions collapsed for some reason – either life did it to you, or maybe I did.
If instead of going all the way wrong, halfway down your life you get confused, is it not a good thing? Otherwise, you will look bewildered when you are dying – that’s a bad way to die. Unfortunately, eighty percent of the people die looking bewildered. They never realized this was going to happen to them. The sooner you get confused, the better. Confusion means none of your conclusions are holding up. When you are thoroughly confused, all your faculties will be sharpened – you will see and hear much better.
It is like you are walking in the jungle with headphones on. Even if a tiger roared, you did not know it. Suddenly you realize you don’t know where you are going. You pulled off the headphones. Now you are thoroughly confused and a little fearful. Once you get used to the confusion, you will see it’s a good thing. And you will also see you are not alone. Most people have to go through this process of confusion and struggle in life, unfortunately. Isn’t there some other way? There is. Otherwise, why would I be here? But, after three lifetimes, I have become wise. This is my final round. The possibility is open, but I don’t believe everyone will jump by themselves. Something has to push them.
If you have realized that you are confused, don’t make further investments in the wrong direction. Stop, wait, look. Try to figure it out. When you are confused, your intelligence is alert and active and constantly looking. That’s how you should be. You just have to learn to do it joyfully. Clarity is a consequence of handling your confusion consciously.