Idle Culture

Writings of a cultural dysfunct

Location: Seattle, United States

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The World Below

You are at 37,000 feet, going over 500 miles per hour in a metal cage. The clouds are below you as you make your way to your vacation, your home, your business trip. You look out of the small porthole window to catch a glimpse of the world below, to watch the topography change the further you go. Below you can see the geometry of farmers, trees forming massive forests, the rivers finding the ways of least resistance as they work towards the ocean, the crinkling of the earth as mountains begin to form. The land below is at work as you race through the air, leaving an exhaust cloud signature in the sky for those below to see.

Evidence that a world outside of you exists as you careen through the sky, causing a sense of smallness within you. To be able to look down and see that a world of trees is living without you is unsettling. There are rivers below that you will never feel run over your feet, mountains that you will never set foot on. Life and the forces of nature are on a steady course miles below your feet and the only thing that you can think of is how insignificant you are.

When you begin to consider how big the world really is and how your life is one of many, it is daunting and so you pull back from the window to catch your breath. You look around at your fellow passengers, longing to feel some sense of significance among the crowd. All you see are people in a hurry to get to wherever they are going, impatient with the turbulence that has prompted the pilot to put on the seatbelt light, grounding everyone to their seats. You glance across the aisle at the businessman reading his paper and notice that his eyes are fixed, not moving to the text.

Your stomach begins to knot as you speed through the air, wondering where exactly you are over the continent. You feel lost as you again take a look outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of some recognizable land formation below. There are more rivers and trees and many other countless things that you cannot see.

There you are in the sky, alone among the crowd, looking down at the world that you are chasing. The pilot breaks the cabin’s white noise to announce the descent of the aircraft and you feel relieved to know that you will soon touch the earth, to become one of the countless many that you just passed over. You anxiously look out of the window as the world grows closer, swallowing you back into its gravity. You await the final hug of the land, longing for the friction of rubber and asphalt, something to let you know that you are ‘home’ no matter where you are.


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