Y’know, when the directors of our latest stage production were so gracious as to gift the other actors and me a cd album of the cast dressing in 1940’s vintage clothing on a beautiful period set, I was reminded of how air travel was once a glamorous and intriguing experience. People actually dressed up to fly in that era and civility was the rule of thumb. So in the interest of nostalgia with a little philosophy thrown in, I concocted my own fantasytrip after talking with some clients in Florida the other day about “flight and airport”adventures. In my own Indiana Jones sort of way, please come fly with me.
Socrates sat down beside me on a Southwest flightfrom Chicago to Music City. We had chatted a little at the airport bar and he seemed like a likable chap, though a bit old fashioned. It was the last flight of the day and was thankfully only half full. He turned and said to me, Man must rise above the Earth — to the top of the atmosphere and beyond — for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” I agreed and offered to buy him a drink as my partner Lloyd had given me some offree drink coupons the airlinespass out. He ordered a scotch on the rocks and asked the attendant to hold the hemlock. My dream had led me to once again recall how air travel is a pure joy when you get over the current state of these horrid geopolitical affairs and remember how glorious a thing it really is.
My philosopher friend told me this would be a special evening as there were several fellow travelers who had jumped across the dimensions of time and space to join us once we hit 30,000 feet above the globe. He was right. They all came by dressed in their best attire reminding me of thepeople from an old Pan AM ad in Life Magazine. I thought of my Bogartstyle trenchcoat and fedora in the overhead compartment.
I was startled when Leonardo da Vincisqueezed by the serving cartand greeted the old Greek and me with a cheerful Buona sera!, flashing his frequent flyer card and stating, “When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return especially when you get a free flight after only four roundtrips. An English chap with a nicely shaped van dyke beard stuck his head from behind him and chimed in. My soul is in the sky.”
Got it, I laughed.
It was William Shakespeare quoting his own line from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ He held up a handful of fingers and said, Act V. Scene I.
Whatever you say, I grinned and then was turning out to bea great flight and “aremarkable night”.
As the inventor and the playwright made their way to the back of the plane to use the facilities, Wilbur Wright stopped by and showed me an article from the in-flight magazine. It was a piece about the future of air travel. He looked out the window at the lights of Indianapolis in the distance far below and smiled. You know, Tom, More than anything else the sensation (of flying) is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.”
Have you ever been afraid? I asked a gentleman who introduced himself as Alexander Chase. He shrugged and said, “Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death.”
Two chatty and smartly appointed women from different eras sat in the seat in front of me and alternately turned to speak to me in the gap between the seats. They had the glow of happy trekkers. “Travelers are always discoverers, especially those who travel by air. There are no signposts in the air to show a man has passed that way before. There are no channels marked. The flier breaks each second into new uncharted seas.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh said. She informed me thatshe was merely repeating her own passage from ‘North to the Orient,’ written in 1935.
The other lady who introduced herself as Jean Batten, the New Zealand pioneer aviatrix,said, “Every flyer who ventures across oceans to distant lands is a potential explorer; in his or her breast burns the same fire that urged adventurers of old to set forth in their sailing-ships for foreign lands.”
They turned back around and I reflected on the beauty of their statements. Then I took a few moments to ask Socrates some other philosophical questions that he only answered with more questions. As I tried to formulate a few answers, I heard someone speaking in a measured tone. “The modern airplane creates a new geographical dimension. A navigable ocean of air blankets the whole surface of the globe. There are no distant places any longer: the world is small and the world is one,” advised Wendell Wilkie across the aisle looking up from his ruffled copy of the New York Times. He proceeded to tell me the perils of running for president. I tried to console himby stating that I was a professional wannabein manyareas myself.
“Aeronautics was neither an industry nor a science. It was a miracle,” came a soft voice from the window seat next to Wilkie. The man introduced himself as helicopter developer Igor Sikorsky in his Russian twang as he munched on a handful of those famous Southwest peanuts.
As we made our final approach into Nashville, I could see the uneven outline of the tree line near the airport made visible by man made lights. “You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky,” said Amelia Earhart who had taken the seat behind me. Her face was unmistakable with her short tousled air and white scarf beneath the fleece lined leather jacket.
I got off the plane and retrieved that old leather bag I had haggled for in Morocco and walked with author Nevil Shute to the parking garage, who reminded me that he wrote in ‘Slide Rule’, “To put your life in danger from time to time… breeds a saneness in dealing with day-to-day trivialities.”
Yeah, I thought its so very true. For you see our journey indeed breeds clear thinking, whether it is a construction of fictional thoughts like I had above to tell a story or a factual experience like the hundreds of times I have been on a jet to and from Chicago and all over the world meeting people every bit as interesting as my aforementioned mysterious characters. Until our spiritual travels through this life are seen as beinga destination in their own rite, we cannot hope to solve the riddle of the Timeless Traveler? within us who, though is always in motion, never really moves at all. That stillness in the midst of all kinds of motion has been one of God’s most important messages to me.
For as was once spoken, It is stillness that is constant movement, just like a flywheel which, when turning extremely fast, looks static.
As I looked over at Claude Rains who was sitting next to mein the Infiniti, looking ever like the French policeman Captain Renault in Casablanca,I said to him, “Louie, thanks for rounding up theÂusual suspects. This really could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Frequent Flyer in body and spirit,
Christian Bruddah Hicks