I have learned this just now: I am not afraid to fly. I’m not afraid of all things, but these days isn’t flying the garden variety terror? a most predictable thing? Think: your average person with means can fly, easy. They can book a trip and pay with money and go from point A to point B in an airplane. Yet the TSA is an actual horrorshow, anyplace. LaGuardia Airport in particular appears to have been designed by the world’s cruelest toddler. And mostly shows like ‘Lost’ and movies like ‘Flight’ and catastrophes like ‘9/11’ have eroded the clout of statistics yelling “so much safer than being in a car!” Flying is a tedious and typical event that is these days only incredible when pondered. Yet flying is something sane people are allowed to be afraid of, because…
Up here we are tossed like lettuce in a sealed tube with a hundred strangers and there is rippling Atlantic 38,000 feet below! The tube’s driver is invisible; she’s also mostly the machine. Yet I am not afraid! I slept through take off, look at me! It’s a very small boast but one worth cataloguing for someone who is afraid of many things. Big, hairy abstracts mostly – you know, existential despair and dying alone. But I’m also afraid of other garden variety concretes like the doctor and sharks and mice. I sometimes wonder when it was I got to be afraid of these things; it hasn’t been always, I’m positive. I also get worried. I’m worried my cat will get sick while I’m away. I have the New Yorker sort of day terrors that sustain the psychiatric industry, I am this word neurotic. Such murmurs as these might prompt a real rumination on the nature and categories of fear only out this double-plated window is the present moment begging to be seized and on either side my nervous seatmates are the practical interruptions to this exercise and below me is ocean, which is perhaps as predictable as the rest of this rant, but also entirely not. It is also entirely magic, seen from 38,000 feet.
I’d rather this not be another soupy fist of feelgood writing that I will use to fortify myself with when in a slightly bummer mood tomorrow. The important thing to bottle here is only the notice: I am not afraid in a scary place. It didn’t occur to me to be me. And unless this plane crashes (spoiler alert: it does not) I have survived a small but epic thing, just three hours but all of it above clouds and golden spirals and HOW SILLY DOES CITY PLANNING GET IN THE BIRDSEYE! I have done nothing but sleep with my face pressed to a double paned window, awakened briefly to sip at orange juice from concentrate. I have done nothing but have the smallest amount of faith. Yet I can fly, and I can see such things as the sun rising over the Eastern seaboard while I fly and I am capable of writing it down and telling you about it and it is not because I somehow deserve to or was chosen or have even done any serious labor, have earned my keep or passage at all…I can fly because I’m not afraid of flying. Also, the National Endowment for the Arts has paid for my ticket.
Is it this simple? No. Only in Meta-Meta Land. And fortune cookies suck. I wonder though…if we are able to be weightless sometimes, if we’re capable of the most automatic and practical kind of courage—couldn’t other terrors and quibbles be recast as arbitrary? There’s just so much outside my control and so little I’d like to miss.
Now this has been an experiment in Icarusian logic. I am much closer to the sun now than I am usually. I am high. When you’re young, you get high. I will let you know how this all ends once I touch the ground.