I am in the air somewhere above Kansas on my way to Lido Key, Sarasota Florida for The Return to Atlantis Conference. The earth beneath me extends to the horizon, a patchwork of fields intersected by tiny roads. And the sky is a suspended ocean of blue above me. The clouds seem to pass underneath the plane in slow motion, the eternal expanse of them shining a titanium white; meadow upon meadow of them, bubbling up towards the belly of the plane. In all honesty the concept of flight by airplane never made sense to me. It feels a bit like flying thousands of feet in the air in a giant metal death trap. I had my first in-flight anxiety attack on my way to New York years ago, after years of loving to fly. It isn’t death that gets me; it’s being unable to escape emotional or physical pain. The feeling of being utterly powerless in planes. Were the plane to suddenly plummet, you could not escape from the plane. You would be stuck at the mercy of the experience. It feels a bit like being back in the hands of a psychopath. I was just joking with a friend of mine (who expressed her jealousy that I have a job which entails lots of travel) that if she just starts to build up some resistance to flying airplanes (like me), she’d get a job that requires her to travel.
All this being said, I love the perspective that flying in airplanes allows you. Being so high in the air has a way of showing you just how small you are. I look down on the sprinkling of shining cities and towns and can’t help but wonder about the lives of all of those people beneath me. Most of whom I will never meet. They pass under the wing of the plane. They are there one minute and gone the next; a bit like the lives we live. One day we are here, the next we are gone. At once, our lives are infinite in their significance and yet, they are lives just lived. Like temporary blossoms, we come to bloom and wither away. It is far more beautiful than immortality. Immortality is nothing more than a chariot for fear. It may wear a tempting mask, but underneath it is disfigured.