Flying and the Process of Writing

Airplane travel drives home the absurdity of my existence. Why would a human have to be transported across oceans and lands ever? Are we that vain that such needs are a common occurrence nowadays? What could be so pressing a need for such drastic transportations?

I still have not come to grips with the sight of the whole world dropping off when the plane tilts and lifts off into the air, and every time I wonder if that sinking feeling in my stomach is just physics or some more elemental panic. There is something ungodly about the whole process, not to mention something equally vain and dangerous.

Often, just seconds after the plane takes off, there is a layer of clouds that it enters, just after banking, that envelopes the entire plane and shakes the whole metal structure with such ease that I question if man knows his place in nature. Don’t those air pockets forebode the immensity of components that man is throwing himself into, trusting them to not turn hostile?

With only the sky above, and the clouds and the earth below, this mode of travel strikes me as one of the most audacious of human endeavors.

The tiny window in the plane connects me immediately to nature’s vastness. Perennially snowcapped mountains look like sugar dusted cones, the insulated plane turning the cold unforgivingly harsh landscape into a sugary confection. Parched deserts stretch impassively on both directions, unbothered by slim highways that stretch across its length, like a beast who, when it wakes up from its deep slumber, would not even know the tiny cobwebs that it dislodges, those that humans have constructed laboriously over years when it was sleeping. I still remember peering out at the Grand Canyon, a yawning river bed of mythical proportions, a gash on earth that only reveals itself in its totality at such inhuman heights.

Then there is the curving blue of the horizon when flying across oceans. The glimmering blue, speckled with gold and silver light, mocks me. Sometimes I feel there is poetic justice in airplane disasters, especially over uninhabited, unreachable parts of the world.

If flying over cities at night, the entire ground is one dark palette on which a clumsy cosmic artist has spilled gold dust. Other times, it reminds me of a giant golden many-tentacled mollusk, staring up at me after feeding itself to its full.

Airplane travel also triggers deep hidden fears and joy in me. Irrationally vast fears that match the scale of visuals being offered. They all seem to go together and I let myself sometimes fully immerse in these fears.

On land though, I still struggle embarrassingly to write.

I cannot bring myself to let go, to let myself be lulled into a trance where I do not overthink what I am writing, a state that I rarely manage to recreate. That writing seems a privileged outlet, a beautiful and yet indulgent – even pretentious – choice of expression, could be one of the reasons why I struggle so.

Often I have thought about how writing is so similar to filming oneself in private. Though the act of writing is solitary, doesn’t the intent of publishing make it anything but? This awareness colors this whole process of writing with a tinge of the taboo. There is a tacit psychological exhibitionist streak that the writer indulges in, which in turn is continued by the readers, the voyeurs. Anonymous readers, transactional likes and applauses from impersonal and chance stumbling upon of the piece by strangers looking to slake their curiosity, all add to this literary glory hole of sorts.

The embarrassment that I start with, when I finally finish writing, generally turns into a queasy sense of defiant vulnerability, one where I let myself be judged at will.

Yes, the more I think of it, the more I tell myself that I can recognize this tendency in some writers, and when I read such pieces, I am fascinated, thrilled at the touches, flourishes, and delicacy, these writers bring to their craft. There are those who sustain the honest tone, a boldness, a quality of approaching the process and purpose of writing afresh every time they put pen to paper.

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