I arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale airport to a line at the Spirit Airline ticket counter so long that I didn’t even contemplate whether to wait.  My flight to Laguardia wasn’t until 3:20 P.M., and it was only 11:00 A.M., so, after a leisurely lunch, I dropped my bags off and decided to look for the chapel.

There was no chapel at the airport—only a meditation room.  A sign on the door read: “The Meditation Room has been locked due to security reasons.  If you need to use the Meditation Room, go to the nearest pay phone and dial *22.  An Aviation Department representative will make it available to you.  Thank you.”

My curiosity was piqued: What was in the meditation room that constituted a security risk?  I went to the nearest pay phone and dialed *22.  It took the Aviation Department official about five minutes to show up.  A meek-looking fellow in his early 60’s, he sized me up intensely as if to determine whether I was a troublemaker.  He asked me how long I was going to be, and I said I would need it for a half-hour or so.  When I asked him why this meditation room was considered a security risk, he mumbled something about September 11 and asked me where I had been since then.

There were no bomb-making materials in the room.  In fact, there was nothing in the room but three rows of ten nice-looking chairs all facing the same direction.  Instead of an altar, there was a metallic picture of airplanes flying through clouds penetrated by rays from the sun, as if coming from some great celestial being.

After making my penance, and while I was enjoying the peace and quiet in the only room in the airport without a loudspeaker, it dawned on me why this room was considered a security risk: Our thoughts are free in a quiet room.  In a quiet room, we can think what we want to think; we are free from the constant bombardment of information from the TV, radio, movies, magazines, newspapers, and the internet that preoccupies our minds with thoughts that are often irrelevant to our own betterment.  In a quiet room, we are free to plan our futures and then to go act on those plans.  And, when we make such plans, we acquire hope and are no longer afraid.  Yes, they don’t want us to think for ourselves because we may generate the impulse to do something!  Terrorists first meditated and then decided to do something about it.  That can’t be allowed!

After 30 minutes, like clockwork, the Aviation Department official showed up.  “You’re not working . . . This is strictly for meditation,” he said as he saw me writing.  Yes, work—working against their plans is what they fear most.  Planned action.  I asked for 15 more minutes to finish my thoughts.  He complained a bit and then said he would be back.

The powers of modern society know that there is no better way to control people’s actions than to rule their thoughts, deciding what they think about.  They know that, if they constantly tempt us with luring vices, we will eventually succumb to one or the other.  And, once we are busy thinking or doing what they have lured us into, we will have no time to think about things that may truly better our lives, things which are outside of their desires and may threaten their power.

The Soviet Union used a very unsophisticated form of thought control.  They openly controlled the press and threatened anyone who tried to speak out or act differently.  Today, thought control is more sophisticated.  There are few open threats about what you can or cannot think or about what you can or cannot do.  Theoretically, we live in a free society.  In order to subdue us, those in power have to bombard us with the things they want us to think about.  Above all, they use fear.  When we are afraid of something, we cannot help but think about it.  The news leads with the war in Iraq, who shot whom in the city, where the terrorists may strike next, and a whole host of other things intended to scare us into thinking that we need to be protected from it all by them—the government; those in power.  The next day, it is a different variation on the same theme, always with a different story to scare us anew and to keep us fixated on what they want us to think about.

After instilling sufficient fear, they bombard us with advertisements for fast cars,  luscious food, and loose women.  And economists tell us that it also helps the economy to consume, consume, consume!  People almost cannot help but think: “If I’m going to die tomorrow anyway, might as well let it all hang out now.  Besides, I’m doing good by creating jobs for others.”  September 11 led to a flurry of purchases of Corvettes.  Waistlines bulged, marriages broke, and children suffered.

At an airport, these more sophisticated forms of mind control are supplemented by the constant bombardment of a crackling sound system meant to destroy any sophisticated thought: Mr. Jones, please come to the information desk. . . . Flight 169 is now boarding rows 20 and higher.  This is accompanied by a low-level unconscious fear in many who are about to fly: This just may be my final hour.  And, ironically, my demise may be the next piece of mind control used on prime-time news to instill fear.

This habit of fear and controlled thought is ingrained at a young age.  Why else would children be prevented from playing freely?  Instead, children are shuttled from one organized activity to another—one evening, soccer; the next, band; then this, then that; otherwise, the TV.  Never shall one think for oneself.  And the activities are always controlled.

A quiet room, by definition, makes thought control impossible.  Which led me to a final thought: Let us bring back meditation before the Blessed Sacrament.  If the faithful believed It is God, they would spend more time in the quiet of the Church.  In the quiet, we can embrace the particular and distinct responsibilities that we each have been given.  The quiet is a place where there is no fear.  Faith is the opposite of fear.  The quiet offers us the chance to think about our families and friends, to pray for them, and to decide to help those who are in need.  The quiet enables us to take responsibility for those problems to which we are able to respond; it localizes our thoughts.  Most importantly, the quiet brings us to think about the good things we have, to appreciate them, and to thank God for them.  The quiet makes us happy.

Just as I was finishing this thought, the aviation official showed up again.  I went back into the noise.