If you are anything like me, you have been horrified and mystified by the disappearance of Malaysian Airline Flight 370 on March 8. How could a Boeing 777 jetliner carrying 239 people just disappear from the sky about an hour after take-off? With no apparent signals of distress, the jumbo jet evaded radar and satellite signals from multiple countries. I have been glued to news reports on television hoping for a miracle or at least a reliable explanation.
TV, radio, and social media have dedicated hundreds of broadcast hours and numerous experts to speculate on the whys and whereabouts of the plane and its passengers. With all the technology and brain power available, the flight continues to elude the most sophisticated equipment and aviation scientists. Families waiting news about their loved ones are tortured by uncertainty and a lack of information.
In the April 7, 2014 issue of The New Yorker magazine, columnist James Surowiecki wrote an article titled “Punditonomics”. He noted how, in the absence of concrete information and in the midst of speculation, many scenarios have been offered by news anchors and experts on panels. Speculation has ranged from the plane being swallowed up by a black hole, being hijacked with all on board still alive, pirated to Kazakhstan, been hidden from radar, and that the plane would be used by Iran to attack Israel (see page. 23).
In the absence of knowing, there were gaps in knowledge. As is the nature of the human mind, people filled these vacuums of uncertainty. When facts are not forthcoming, people create reasons from their own minds to explain the unexplainable and unbearable. We are creatures craving answers.
But more than that, we are people who need answers. It is human nature to need security, control, trust, and reassurance. Life “should” proceed in predictable ways. Often it does not.
I do not equate the loss of Flight 370 for a second with performance anxiety. But the lessons learned from this tragedy, however it continues to unfold, challenge us in the gut. The gut that functions best on knowing that our efforts pay off. The gut that demands we be safe. The gut that wants and often needs to rely on others. The gut that feels abject panic when things go wrong and we spiral out of emotional control. The gut that feels betrayed when those we trust let us down. The gut that feels humiliated when we feel we have let ourselves down.
To try to establish or reestablish control, we fill the vacuum of the unknown with our own news stories, fantasies, theories, and reasons. To explain (or think we have explained) that which we fear gives us an illusion of control.
I would never compare the loss of Flight 370 with performance anxiety. Yet, music performers fear loss of memory and technical control on stage. The glare of the spotlight and the stares of the audience often interfere in ways that debilitate them and prevent personal and professional aspirations. Performers want to share their music.
The ultimate tragedy of Malaysian Flight 370 is that all of the people on board are lost with all of their music still inside them.