Ever since I was a kid I had a dream to fly a plane. What would it be like to be at the controls of a machine that could take me into the air and move me with great speed? I took my first flying lesson yesterday and finally found out.
And yet, when I think about it, my saying, ‘found out’ is a bit of an overstatement. In fact, my memory of that first flight is just unprocessed detail. And certainly the meaning of it, if there is such a thing, is still tucked away somewhere in my mind.
In my dreams of flying there weren’t any tires that needed checking to see if they were covered with leaking hydraulic fluid, there wasn’t a seat belt that had to be repaired (a small detail which almost aborted the flight), and there wasn’t the roar of the Cessna Skyhawk’s engine, or the thrust of the plane zooming upwards when I pulled back on the yoke.
Once inside the tiny craft there was a sense of inevitability, of determination, and even providence. It felt somewhat like a first sexual experience… ‘I can’t believe this is actually happening…’ And as the plane rolled down the runway I was taken aback by how soon we were aloft. My first feelings were a mixture of exhilaration and panic. ‘Is this right? Should we be flying so low? Is the engine still working?’
And then, only after taking the controls and banking out over the San Gabriel mountains and following the path of the 118 Freeway, did I have moments, albeit brief ones, of the beauty of the landscape in front of me. The foothills, greener than usual from the recent winter rains, and the Santa Monica bay, calm and cerulean blue off to my left. The most beautiful things however, were the ones taking place in my head.
There I was, living out a dream of mine, a fantasy that I’d played out over and over in my mind for years, and of all things, it was the space between the actual experience of flying and my dreams of flying that struck me as most beautiful. No matter how detailed my assumptions about what it would be like, they were removed by infinite degrees from the visceral experience of flying itself.
And today I wonder how many more nascent ideas I might be brave enough (bravery being a completely subjective thing, of course) to undertake in the near future and how many more assumptions could be straightened and clarified by bringing them into the real world.
Not only “bucket-list” ideas, of which I have several, but ideas for deeper conversations with loved ones and interactions with people that I also hold assumptions about. How might my life broaden, to enrich myself, and those around me if I were to take more of my dreams out of my head and place them into the world?
The beauty of experience lies in the perspective it brings. Now I know, is the most precious feeling in the world.”