On Flying, On Wonder, On the Ambivalence of Being Human

What is more remarkable: to be above the birds, above the clouds, in flight, lofted and blazing forth like an arrow from a bow from departure point A to destination B?, or creeping slowly along the ocean bottom, nearly blind, feeling feeling, searching searching where there is seemingly, visibly, no life but hoping hoping, fingers crossed, to stumble onto something, something as alien, foreign to us on the surface as a life form found on another planet, in another galaxy lightyears away?

I don’t think there is an answer. At least I don’t have one. But I will never be found huddled in a deep-sea submersible traveling through the inky-black ocean depths on a scientific quest. However, I do find myself occasionally, like right now, sandwiched between layers of clouds, slowly surging upward and out, breaching the tops of these clouds like a whale the surface of the ocean, as do millions of people every year (it seems almost migratory, and for some I’m sure it is). And you look down, through the little plastic window at this whole, strange now, world spread out below, or at least what you can see of it through the cloud shafts, and it looks pallid, sallow and mottled, speckled, like it’s ill, and you wonder what this view from this exact spot was like one hundred, two hundred, five hundred years ago, and you think how the earth looks just like a sickly, elderly person, or a fruit rotting and pimpled with lesions, and you think to yourself “We are a scourge, butchering, and chopping, and bulldozing all in the name of what? Progress? Money? Ego? Inertia? (keeping on keeping on only for the sake of keeping on because having the courage to give up, to dig our heels in until we come to a screeching halt, to throw our hands in the air, and shout out “I’m done with this! This good for nothing!” is simply too much, too difficult, requires too much courage)” When God created man it was a death knell for this world. The Word once spoken became the tolling of the bell in the church by the cemetery.

Still, it is so remarkable to be here, way up here looking down at what is, and maybe imagining what used to be, or spying long meandering rivers like I spy now in their snaking cord-like shapes, and thinking “Now that is the real miracle. Not man’s foolish destructive conquest of the world, taking, taking, taking.” And to marvel at the variety of cloud shapes too! Streaks long and short, staccato dots, impasto spots, clods and hunks, ripples and waves, miles wide smears from a pallet knife, mountain ranges, the surf of ocean waves boiling up onto a beach… Yes, we may be obliterating everything, and ourselves with it, but at least we have the chance to, some of us, peer through the windows of our senses in awe as the plane is going down.


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