Today, as I fly from Connecticut to Columbus for Christmas I am suddenly struck by the wonder of flying. I have flown frequently in the past ten years, to and from California and Wyoming, California and Virginia, California and Connecticut, and now Connecticut and Ohio. So much air travel can leave you jaded, but sometimes your appreciation for something can be renewed. Sometimes, as in my case, all it takes is the fact that someone you care about very much is fascinated by the thing that you are jaded about. And then suddenly your eyes are opened, and interest is renewed. Being in a relationship is very good for a person. It broadens one’s horizons, and you come to appreciate things you never thought you would ever, in your entire lifetime, come to have even the slightest interest in. Baseball, for example. I have little interest in sports in general, and never thought I would ever take any interest in a game that I regarded as tedious and bewildering. But look at me, having gone to two baseball games and actually enjoyed them. And not dying inside when my boyfriend talks about baseball.
But I digress, though this was all to say that my eyes have been opened to the wonders of flying in an airplane. At this moment, somewhere between Baltimore and Columbus, I am dwelling on those wonders as I watch the sun set from the airplane windows. And I am experiencing all of the elements of a flight as if it were for the first time.
The feeling of taking off, as the plane lifts off into the air. Feeling as if you are being pressed down, feeling ever so heavy as your stomach decides to stay behind for a moment. The feeling of being scattered every which way as the plane climbs into the sky and you are almost unsure that it will make it. But then the plane levels itself out, and suddenly you are sailing smoothly, weightlessly, above the clouds, looking down at the minuscule things that make up our world. Up in the air there is the feeling of suspension of time. Inside the plane, it seems to be barely moving, while in your head you know that if you are on the ground looking up, a plane moves quite fast.
Sailing through the clouds that look so dense you do not think they can be pierced. Coming out of the clouds and floating atop them. The clouds looking like a bed of cotton that would catch you if you fell. The sun shining on the clouds, giving the atmosphere a rare, translucent quality that you can never find on the ground. A tiny bit of heaven. The sun shining on a body of water that reaches to the horizon and connects seamlessly with the sky. Seeing the intricacy of the world below, the river and trees, the mountains and valleys, the houses and roads. Realizing how tiny you are in the hugeness of creation.
The sun setting on the horizon, ringing the world with a crown of gold and pink and purple. Seeing a sunset on the ground is glorious, but seeing a sunset from the air is sublime. Watching as the light fades away and the million pinpricks of light begin to appear on the ground.
The feeling of descending to the ground at the end of the flight. The sensation of your body slowly seeming to leave you and floating in the air as you approach the ground. The frightening bump as the plane touches the ground, and the roar of the brakes. And then realizing you are once again earthbound, and gravity has once again taken over.
Flying is truly a great feat of human ingenuity. We humans have always wanted to fly, have always striven to find a way to get wings. Because having wings is like being God, and we have always, since our first parents were created, wanted to be like unto God. That was our first fault, and it is our greatest desire, to be something like unto God. To achieve perfection, and freedom from the effects of sin. As fallen creatures, we feel the weightedness of sin. We have lost our passability and are rooted to this earth. But God always gives us a way out of our sinful state. At the highest level, He gives us grace. At the lower level, He gives us our intellects, which we can use to create the power of flight.
Modern air travel is much different from the first air travel, I am sure. It has lost quite a bit of its glamour, especially as we are crammed six to a row. But if you ignore the hundred other people around you and instead look to the wonder of a sunset from the air, and imagine you can feel the clouds folding gently around you, you can imagine what it was like to fly for the first time. You can slightly, only very slightly, imagine what it to be sinless, to be like God.
I’ve reached far up into the endless blue,
I’ve soared to heights as yet unknown to man.
I’ve sailed through clouds of blinding white,
And battled storms and all the elements.
I’m not alone; the sky and I are one.
I have no fear; the sky and I are friends.
And what is more, which no man yet has done,
I’ve reached up and I’ve touched the hand of God.