Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Current Reading: Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

Inspirational Quote: "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world." -- Arthur Schopenhauer

I love flying. Penelope hates flying with me because I have to have the window seat and tend to pout when I don't get my way (women get a free child with every husband married). I don't care if there's nothing to see but clouds. I have to see them. If there's some interesting stuff, like lakes and rivers and mountains and cities and other planes (waaay down there), I can stare out the window for hours.

That I'm an acrophobe tends to complicate things a bit. Most of me knows that I'm fairly safe, surround by several tons of fuselage and the latest in operational safety gear. Unfortunately, the part of me that's afraid doesn't realize all that stuff prevents me from just falling out of the plane.

The first few moments are difficult, when the wheels leave the tarmac and everything starts to recede. It's also tough when the plane banks within the first few thousand feet. After that, though, there's a weird moment during the ascent when my perspective changes. Things just seem to go from being close enough to kill me to being too far away to worry about. The view becomes about as scary as a big ol' Google Map.

I was reminded of this on Saturday when a friend took me up in a two-seater ultralight with Plexiglas doors.I spent twenty minutes 2000' over my town.

He offered me the stick. I declined. Although I was comfortable enough to rubberneck constantly, I had a death-grip on the harness straps and only let go to take a few very fast snapshots.

It was a beautiful sight: Patches of forest separated fields scalloped into patterns by farm equipment. The river, much of it hidden at ground level by trees, winding its way through the countryside with its islands and coves and sand bars. The roads, trying hard to run straight and never quite succeeding as the land forced compromises on it.

The interesting, generic observation I got out of all that was how much a simple change of perspective alters our view of both ourselves and the world around us.

I'm never alone. I'm always part of something, if not a group of people, then a place.

And if I'm not seeing something beautiful, it's because I'm not looking the right way.

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