by Niall Chithelen
When the flight delay is announced, we ask what it is we have done wrong. From airlines and the world at large, the answer is rarely forthcoming, so we must look inward instead.
This I did while waiting for my rescheduled connecting flight. I contemplated, for hours, my life, my mistakes, my goals. I thought about how I had gotten to where I am today. I thought about what it is that, to me, means greatness; I thought about what it is that makes a coffee taste good and why it was absent from each coffee I consumed that day.
The airport was not too full, and so I had space to think. I was in Frankfurt, one of Germany’s largest cities, near the geographic center of Europe. Europe has in recent years been roiled by the rise of illiberal so-called “populists,” and these developments have given rise to serious questions about the politics of our time—are these new far-right and far-left movements primarily responses to globalization and financialization, do they stem more from existing social and political currents? Should I have put more sugar?
At this point, five or so hours into my time at Frankfurt, I had been thinking intently for hours, a hum emanating from my now slightly vibrating frame. My eyes were laser-bright with analytical fervor. How many cups of coffee is too many? I was approaching this number.
I began to levitate from my seat in the terminal—I was entering a higher plane of thought. I sent a series of short analytical pieces, first to a group of center-left publications, and then to further left publications, fulminating against my prior ignorance, and then to a right-wing publication (the left had again overstepped its bounds, approaching fascism or something). At this point, I was typing on both my laptop and those of my two neighbors. They understood the gravity of my mission. I tried to put sugar into my mouth and use it as a makeshift filter for the coffee, but ended up crying. I cannot explain that.
As I watched passengers wait for and board their flights, I reflected on the fast-paced and increasingly interconnected world in which we live today. A person can use their phone in Frankfurt, communicating instantaneously with friends in New York and Beijing. A single cup of coffee can have ingredients from three continents and be consumed on a fourth. There is some beauty to all this; the human connection of it all. My plane arrived at the gate and I stood damply to board, smiling quietly at the grand poetry of it all.