Thursday, June 12, 2008


More and More of Less and Less

In writing, as they say, less is more. In life things may be just a wee bit different, depending on the situation. Sometimes, getting more is definitely a plus in every way; sometimes getting less translates to being more. The key word, of course, has to do with either having or being. And the focus on one or the other spells the difference between merely being satiated or being truly satisfied. Not all the filled are really full, as our experience teaches us. Being filled is really having more and more, but being full is being plain and simple, being satisfied, being happy, not primarily with what one gets, but being happy with what one does have. It is about being what one ought to be; a condition, not of want, but of never being in want despite the lack, despite many things always falling short of expectation.

I write this piece whilst I am traversing the Pacific – whilst the plane goes north, and then veers toward the west, in order to go the east! I have not been good at any time with directions, but there is something curious about how northwest airlines charts their flights from the US mainland towards what they call the orient. As I write, the plane skirts above the Pacific northwest, traverses the Russian Kamchatka peninsula, and then eventually will find its way towards Korea and onwards to Japan. Whilst it is true that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, obviously, in a world that is round, the best and shortest path from California to Tokyo, Japan is not to draw a straight line right across the Pacific, but to more up north where the globe tapers off, and traverse the distance therein.

But this makes me veer off course the chosen topic …

I write because there is not much else to do. I cannot sleep on planes, generally. I have just finished watching two movies, the second of which bored me stiff. The seat, with all the squirming and the turning around a very limited area, after some hours, does become – excuse me – a pain in the butt. Add to that a growling stomach that, after what is passed off as dinner fare a few hours ago, has been burnt and digested, with the next meal still hours away.

All airlines all over the world and especially in America, are losing a lot of money on account of the skyrocketing prices of oil. Given the fact that about 40% of their operational expenses go to jet fuel, all airlines simply have to be very creative in finding ways and means to make more money. Today, I have been had, in a sense. I had to shell out an extra 50 dollars for me to be assured of an aisle seat. The worst thing that can happen to me is to be wedged for 12 to 14 hours in between a few rows of seats, or worse, to be at a window seat, and having to squeeze oneself out of those rows every time one has to relieve oneself.

There is more and more of less and less in what airlines offer the economy passengers. Having been travelling to and from both sides of the Pacific since 1984, and having boarded several airline companies in all those years, I surely have enough data to work with informally in terms of assessing what once was, and what now is reality.

For one, the choice of preferred seats is no longer free. Exit seats and even aisle seats are not there anymore for the asking. No … they are there for what they call a modest fee. Snacks on board domestic flights all over the continental US are there, too, for a modest price. And don’t even think of changing your flight date unless you are prepared to pay more than a tenth of the whole round trip ticket price.

I predict that if the rise in oil prices goes unabated, blankets and pillows will be the next to go. Already, the food carts have been made less heavy. Winglets in many airplanes have been added to boost lift. American airlines has begun imposing a one-luggage limit per passenger, and even charging 25 d0llars on that one bag allowance. All other airlines will follow suit in the next few coming months, and the old weight allowance of 70 pounds will be pared down to about 50-60.

There is more and more of less and less … In Israel, they were forced to develop a state of the art desalination process because the old supply of fresh water, the “Sea” of Galilee’s level is falling faster than the price of oil rises all over the world.

Happily, things are changing ever so slowly in terms of consciousness. In many airports, one begins to see signs that remind people to get only what they need. Two things that by and large, the American society wastes so much of, are paper and water. Paper, incidentally, takes so much water to produce, and water is something that is fast becoming a “casus belli” ( a case for war) in many places all over the world. The much coveted Golan heights in Israel that links Israel with Syria has not been a disputed territory only in terms of military strategy. It sits right on top of what was once their only precious water reservoir – the Lake of Galilee!

But despite the reminders, the whole world is still pretty much wasteful all over. Old habits die hard, and the most difficult habits to eradicate are those that cater to our tendency toward more and more creature comfort. SUVs in the US are in for a rough ride ahead. People are going to be forced to say good-bye to them, not because of what Al Gore said, but because the trip to the fuel pump is getting to be more and more painful to consumers.

Flying and traveling is indeed, educational and formative. But so is the reality of human experience. With more and more of less and less becoming the order of the day, perhaps the whole world will eventually learn the hard way, how to be satisfied with less and less, do without more and more stuff, and become more in the long run. In this case, then the high school and college composition teachers were right all along … Less is more!

NW 027 – SFO to NRT
June 6, 2008

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