If you want to leave the surly bonds of earth, launch into the wild blue yonder, depart the chains of gravity, or stop yourself from over-writing, you’re going to need, at the very least, a big balloon filled with more hot air than the president, some sort of motorized aircraft, or some kind of wing capable of catching a thermal.
Flapping your arms won’t do you much good, and it might lead the other people in the coffee shop to wonder if you’ve taken your meds. But perhaps I’m being presumptuous here; you may not be the kind of person who would enjoy flying. You may be content sitting at home watching Netflix, or staring into the glow of the fireplace, reading a book, or working out at the gym. If that’s the case, may God bless and keep you safe from existential ennui. Before you die, in my humble opinion, it is your task to lead your own life, dream your own dreams, and not to follow anyone else’s. If you can do that—become yourself, that is, before you die, you’re a better person than I, or me. And if you know whether I am I or me at any particular place in a sentence, you’re a better man than I am, or at least a better grammarian than I, or me, or Marianne.
Birds may do it, bees may do it, and perhaps educated fleas ponder it, but that doesn’t mean you need to do it too. You will likely be safer at home in your living or bedroom, unless of course you happen to live as do I in the land where the earth quakes, in which case when the big one comes you’d be a lot safer in the air.
As for those birds and bees, one can only imagine how sad life would be for them if their wings were clipped and they were forced—perhaps by some regulatory agency, to remain earthbound. It would likely give rise to a life devoid of meaning, a chronic feeling of one’s life mission unaccomplished.
But that is because birds and bees, as opposed to humans, were meant to fly. That’s how the Creator in Her Eternal Wisdom designed it. Humans were obviously meant to remain earthbound, too fat and skinny in all the wrong places to take to the sky without help.
Yet, for some reason, humans have used their gift of a cerebral cortex to figure out a way to emulate the birds and bees, albeit primitively. I don’t claim to know the reasons, and the older I get the more cynical I am about reasons in general. “Why,” I tell my graduate students, “is a four-letter word.” Best to approach life substituting “why” with “how” as often as possible.
“Why,” in this context, won’t likely get you off the couch and into the air, if that is your chosen path. “How,” however, will guide you. And if it is a mentor you seek, there are plenty who will oblige. You are likely the only one standing in your way.
As a rule, pilots are not possessive of their privilege. Nearly every pilot I know would love to see more pilots flying. While the frequencies might get crowded up there, the more pilots there are, the less people like me would have to feign interest in casual conversation while waiting for the topic to come around to anything aviation-related. So we who have earned the ability to fly welcome and encourage company. “Come fly with me,” sang Sinatra joyously. “Let’s float down to Peru.”
And while we are singing, let’s not forget that while those early supporters of women’s rights celebrated the fact that teen-aged Leslie Gore was not our little toy, we also couldn’t help singing along to her other major hit single—“It’s My Party, and I’ll Fly if I Want To.” Go ahead, sing it. And may I add, flap your arms if you want to.