Imagine Western culture is a crashing airplane. We are all on this plane, and the oxygen masks have just been released. What do you do first? Do you put the mask on your daughter, your son, your husband or wife, the autistic kid in seat 888F? No! You put the mask on yourself. Why? Because only you can know if you have the courage it takes to right the plane.
You cannot know if the guy in seat 2,998A, who claims he’s a cop, has the courage or not. Just like you cannot know if the girl in seat 199B is actually a qualified pilot, or the guy in seat 3,856E really is a Navy SEAL. And even if you did know, you shouldn’t rely on them alone. You, and only you, are the one who must make a critical decision. It will be a decision that may or may not sit right with your fellow passengers, but it is a decision that you MUST make in order to right the “plane.”
Some people will tell you the plane is just fine, that it’s not crashing. Some people will tell you the oxygen masks are just scare-tactics used by conspiracy theorists and will slough it off as paranoia, while ordering another drink from the stewardess. That’s just fine, let them talk, let them get drunk, let them ignore the masks. When they pass out, at least they’ll be out of your way so you can save them, despite themselves. And if you should fail, at least they’ll have a peaceful ending to their lives.
This is not a typical plane crash. This is a cultural “plane crash.” It could take years to finally fall. The tactic for righting the plane is one that hasn’t been thought up yet. So you will have to be the type of person who can think up new tactics on the fly (See the video). The courage it will take to right the plane will be a particular flavor of courage that will redefine the concept of courage itself.
It will shatter all notions of courageousness conceptualized hitherto. It will take perseverance, audacity and a kind of self-confidence that others might confuse as arrogance or conceit. That’s okay, let them be confused. Sometimes, like Clive Barker said, “you just have to trust your own madness.”
This is critical, and there is no time for balking or kowtowing to other people’s outdated notions of what it means to be courageous. This is the time to step up, to be the one who transforms fear into courage, to be the one who will right the goddamn plane! Only you can know if you care enough to save your family, or not.
Only you can know if you care enough to save the scared shitless, fumbling, mumbling many. What if everyone else is too scared? What if everyone else is in denial that the plane is crashing? What if you’re the only one who can see that the plane is indeed in its final decent, and the masks are not an illusion?
Here’s the thing: The Oxygen Mask is a metaphor that represents health: healthy mind, healthy body and healthy soul. The crashing plane is a metaphor that represents an unhealthy, unsustainable culture. You must be healthy of mind body and soul if you are going to be the type of person who can help others become healthy in mind body and soul.
That’s why you put the mask on first. It takes a person willing to redefine courage itself to right this type of crashing plane. If that person is you, then you know it, and we should all wish you luck and Godspeed. If that person is not you, then you also know it, and you should stay out of the way of those who know they have the capacity to save your life.
Once you have the mask secure, and your health established, you can then help others to become healthy. But you cannot help others become healthy if you don’t put the mask on yourself first, because you risk not being there for people who are less capable.
Those who are capable will already be putting the masks on themselves first. And if you can find enough people wearing “oxygen masks” then you can form a team; a healthy, sustainable force to be reckoned with; a courageous team that has the potential to right the plane despite the lazy majority of naysayers still stuck in the very paradigm that caused the plane to crash in the first place.
They, the unsustainable sycophants living fear-based lifestyles, will be your greatest obstacle. But you cannot allow their unreasonable doubt to dissuade your reasonable courage. Stay strong. Keep the oxygen mask on yourself. Help others secure their own oxygen mask and teach them how to keep it on. And maybe, just maybe, there will be a future for us all.