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William Patrick Patterson
Who's Flying This Plane?

Let's roll!

Just a few years ago that was shouted in a plane high above the state of Pennsylvania. We all know that story. The black-bearded, angry-eyed guys with box cutters defending the plane's cockpit, the passengers no longer in their seats, the impending fight for survival.

No, the passengers were no longer in their seats telling themselves this was not a hijacking, or if it was, then they'd soon be landing at some airport, thinking to themselves, "We'll be hostages for a while and then negotiations will begin, and we'll get out of this."

No, they were not self-calming with these thoughts or the idea that God would protect them, that everything happens for the best, and if something was to be done, let someone else do it.

When a stewardess reported that ground control had confirmed that the hijackers wanted to crash the plane, maybe target the White House, the recognition dawned: This was a suicide flight!

"Let's roll!" the passengers screamed, and rushed the cockpit. Slashes, punches, blood, screams. They must have gotten close to opening that cockpit door, because the hijacker piloting the plane suddenly nosedived straight into a farmer's field in Pennsylvania.

By analogy each one of us is a passenger in our own plane, alone. And our plane only has so much fuel. At one point it's going down, too. Just a matter of time. Whether it's in a Pennsylvania farmer's field, or the mountains near Denver, or a California desert, our plane is going down somewhere, sometime.

Can I get that through my head? That I am going to die at some point... Yes, intellectually I can admit that I'm going to die, but emotionally it still doesn't touch me. And anyway, well, there's always life after death. I have a soul, so only the body's going to die.

I tell myself stories like that just like the passengers did before they realized what was up. Do I think I'm going to land at another airport? That this plane isn't going down? Is that why I keep sitting in my seat? But then I look around: there are no others on this plane. I'm the only passenger. And then the question finally breaks through the jamming system—who's flying this plane? Who's in that cockpit? Where are we headed? I get out of my seat now and start up the aisle, but as soon as I do the plane hits turbulence. Warning lights start flashing. I feel queasy. So I go back to my seat, sit down, buckle up, turn on the TV. Surfing the channels, I discover a strange, esoteric station. There's an interview with some wacko talking about everyone "being mostly disembodied," about not really having a body. Now how ridiculous is that? I've got a body! What's he talking about? But suddenly I see what he's saying. Yeah, there's a body, but I don't have a conscious awareness of it.

The question recycles: The wacko's talking again about redirecting the attention out of the head brain, amping up the body's vibration, becoming embodied. The warning lights are still flashing, seat belts must stay fastened, but I'm not buying it. I need to know the answer—Who's in the cockpit? I make my way up the aisle. The closer to the cockpit door I get, the more fear I feel. Like there's some unstated taboo to not open that door. That if I do, I'll be "poisoned for life." Life will never be the same. The voices in my head roar, but the question nags—who the hell is flying this plane! I yank open the cockpit door—empty! The plane's on automatic! The whole flight is programmed. There's nobody here but me.

Me? Who is this "me"? Yeah, "me," but what do I mean, what am I referring to, when I say "me"? Certainly not just the body. I could lose a limb, an eye, and still be "me." But, like that wacko guy said, this sense of "me" keeps changing. So many different "me"s, so many voices all saying "I." He said something about egotism, believing in, worshiping really, an imaginary "I."

I remember once reading this incredibly frustrating book in which there is original sin, but Adam didn't do anything. Adam was manipulated. He had an organ put into him that made him see things upside down. Made him think he was the center of the universe.

I look out the window. The plane is landing. Over the intercom, a disembodied voice says this is the Holy Planet Purgatory, that we're just going for a "look-see." Purgatory isn't at all what I imagined. Absolutely beautiful. Everything you would want. Movies, great food, golf, tennis, parties, gorgeous women, skinny dipping, casinos, self-help groups, therapies and a drug-of-choice for every occasion. But there's this flashing sign saying the aim for those on this planet is to cultivate an unflagging, instinctive need for being-Partkdolg-duty in order to purify ourselves.

I lived in a cave when I first got here. Didn't care for it, complained, so I was moved to the penthouse suite atop the local casino. No problemo. Round-the-clock room service. Dynamite chicks. Then late one evening I notice a lot of planes taking off from the airport. I call the control tower. Yeah, they're going straight back to a former state of mind, Earth.

Hey, there's a knock on my door and under it slides what looks like—yes, an airplane ticket. My name's on it. Flight 1-2-3, Destination Earth, one-way.

Hmm...why me? What did I do?

This talk is printed in The Gurdjieff Journal Issue #36