Wonder from the Airplane Window
When I fly, I’m captivated by the view. Peering out the window of an airplane gives me a new perspective, as I soar above the earth, far below. Roadways are dotted with tiny, slow-moving cars, each with its own destination. Commercial centers, baseball fields, and residential tracts have been constructed between the forests and lakes that have preceded them. The landscape below is expansive and complex.
Looking down at the world from above, I am reminded of a simple fact:
I’m not that important.
This is humbling. It makes me feel very small. The realization is foreign, yet strangely comforting. I am grateful as I realize that, while I’m unique, my life is one piece of a much larger puzzle. To think otherwise is to delude myself.
This reality often escapes me. When engaged in the daily grind of my life, I have an outsized view of my own self-importance. Work responsibilities must be met, phone calls returned, witty jokes must be made– all in the service of affirming that I’m important and that I have value. I am the locus of my world and I act accordingly.
My world is a constant struggle to prove who I am by what I do. I want to be a good employee, a good son, a good boyfriend. I want people like me and think I’m competent. I want to be invited to parties. I want people to applaud my witticisms on Facebook. I want to feel important. The drive to affirm my own self-importance is the very thing that causes me to miss out on the wonder of the world around me. Trying to prove myself becomes crippling.
Yet, the view from the plane– with tray tables up end electronic devices off– helps me see the world for what it is: a place of complexity, mystery, and wonder. It is a place to be enjoyed, where I am not the center. Looking out the window, I appreciate the world without trying to get something from it. It is liberating. I am at rest.
But when I land, after turning my phone back on and hustling out of the terminal, the view from above fades quickly. How can I remember that view after I’ve landed? The demands of my life compel me to forget. I must remember that world is bigger than the reality of life as I experience it. By recognizing a reality greater than my own, I am able to enjoy the world, and participate in it, as it was intended.