"Things are entirely what they appear to be and behind them ... there is nothing."
-- Jean-Paul Sartre
Commercial air travel is a regular part of our lives, yet many of us still feel an eerie disquiet when we fly. You browse the in-flight magazines while a 37,000-foot chasm of emptiness lurks just beneath your shoes. You snack on little pretzels while a few inches away, life-sucking minus 60 degree airstreams whip by. The flight attendants point out exits that go nowhere.
In the air, as on the ground, behind every this or that lies all or nothing. This nothingness is papered over with illusion, habit and little rituals, until something slices through the wrapper -- until that moment when you hear the pilot's strained voice and feel your gut muscles clench. Will you grow huge enough to contain the hugeness of the moment? Or will you break apart in freakish panic?
In flight, as in life, you live one step from oblivion. You stand on nothing but your will. Your only security is to embrace insecurity. So the next time you fly, step on board as though entering a sacred battlefield, place your tray table in its upright and locked position and stare straight past the pretzels and the chitchat into the jaws of the absolute.
The airline that doesn't kill me makes me stronger.
Reprinted with permission from "Daily Afflictions" by Andrew Boyd, published by W.W. Norton. To order a copy, click here