I don’t really understand how airplanes work. At all.
I am guessing there’s an anti-gravity switch somewhere, or maybe just a lot of ducks underneath the cabin, flapping really hard? Clearly I have never studied the physics of aerodynamics. But it seems sketchy, is all I’m saying.
This has never stopped me from getting into a plane. I am aware that they almost always stay in the air, even if I think it’s because of a magic wand and a levitation spell.
My son Owen, though, reads books and watches videos and learns actual things about wings and motors and propellers and jet engines, and he tells me that there are technological explanations for all of it.
The other day we stood on the ground near the airport, watching planes take off and land overhead.
“Wouldn’t it be great to live right here?” Owen asked. “You could watch planes all the time.”
“Wow,” I said.
“Wow” means: I hear your excitement.
“Wow” means: That sure is something interesting to think about.
“Wow” does not exactly mean: Yes yes yes! Let’s do it! Here we go! Not exactly.
I said “wow” and not all that other stuff because I was looking at the situation through my boring grown-up-person goggles. I could imagine what it would be like to have noisy, unpredictable planes flying in and out of our consciousness.
I imagine that if we were the sort of people to host garden parties, our luncheons would be interrupted by every flight. We would spill our tea and crumpets and stain our dainty gloves. (We don’t have dainty gloves. I’m just saying IF.) That would be one thing about it.
Owen’s twelve-year-old goggles could see what it would be like, too, and he saw it differently. He looked at each plane and saw a technological marvel, a wonder worthy of capturing our attention every time.
When you’re in an airplane looking down, you see all the tiny people on the ground, perplexingly miniaturized and yet still doing their everyday things. If we lived under a flight path, we would be them. We would be the tiny dollhouse people, living tiny dollhouse lives.
The people in the planes would be hidden from us, tucked away inside a flying tube of aluminum, carried on the wings of fairies. (Again, I’m just guessing.)
Neither of us would really see each other in any meaningful sense of the word, but we would gawk at each other anyway, the perspective making all of us feel small but wild and full of awe.
When they flew a little farther on, away from us, the people in those planes would see other things: clouds and stars and maybe the ocean, or farmland spread out like a giant’s quilt. They might think about how tiny we had seemed to them, and how small they now felt in this grand display of sky and earth and horizon.
On the ground we would see none of that, but we would spy another plane, and another, and another.
Up there, they would be learning the beauty of looking down, and down here I would be practicing the importance of looking up.
Maybe we’re all just waiting for an invitation to consider that life is not made up of grocery lists and daily commutes and carpool lanes and hitting inbox zero.
Even the big things on the ground look small from up above. And yet even the small things are marvelous, in their intricacy and detail.
I don’t have to understand how that works. I might be only a tiny dollhouse person living a tiny dollhouse life.
My job isn’t to understand it all. My job is in the looking.
Look up at the airplanes. Look down at the tiny details on the ground.
Look out and around, because the earth is so full of wonderful things that we could never finish counting them all.
Look within, because eternity has been placed in your heart, and eternity means that you aren’t about to run out of things to contemplate.
There are marvels in every single direction, if we turn our heads and our hearts to look.
It isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some days I think it would take great strength—possibly the same amount of strength that pulls a hunk of metal into the air—to pull my attention toward a bigger reality, a truer understanding, a vision of more than just what’s right in front of me. The big picture exists right alongside the little details, and they both matter.
That would be a good thing to be reminded of, noisily, unpredictably, every day.
“It would be so cool,” he said, and it took me a minute, but now I can answer: Yes. Yes, I can see that.