The Concept of Flight
He is wondering about the concept of flight. More specifically, he is wondering at what age the human brain is capable of comprehending the concept of flight. Were all human brains made equal? Were all human brains capable of comprehending the concept of flight at the same point in their development? Was there a day when, say, the concept of flight was incomprehensible to the human brain and then a day later when it, suddenly, was? Or did each person have a different timetable for flight, its conceptual schema, and the comprehension thereof? Was it as whimsical as puberty? Like the gamut of pre-teen stubble and cup sizes that could litter a middle school cafeteria? Did the concept of flight dawn gradually, first as a framework, with the details filling in over time? And, even then, could everyone comprehend the concept of flight uniformly? Were some brains incapable of comprehending the concept of flight? Were they either too small or too full of other concepts to ever truly get it? Does he truly get it? Does he comprehend the concept of flight? What of the concept of flight is he truly sure of? For starters, he knows that humans had, at some point, figured out that if they could make air travel at a different speed over a wing than it did under a wing, flight, which had at one point been nothing more than a magical dream, was suddenly possible. He knows about propellers. Props. Flaps. He knows about Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Spirit of St. Louis and Chuck Yeager and the Enola Gay and the Bermuda Triangle. He knows about the SR-71 Blackbird and the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet and the Concord and that he should use caution when opening the overhead compartment because his carry-on luggage may have shifted during the course of the flight. He knows how to join the Admiral’s Club, the Frequent Flyer Club, and the Mile High Club each, and knows also to place his oxygen mask over his head before aiding anyone else with their own. But does the air on top of the wing move faster or slower than the air below? There was a trick to remembering this, he’s positive, but for the life of him, he can’t remember. His impression is that it is slower on top, faster below, but now that he is thinking about it, he really can’t say. Certainly that means that some minds are more capable of comprehending the concept of flight than others. Or at least comprehending it better. A pilot, for instance, can comprehend the concept of flight far better than he can. But, then again, he can comprehend the concept of flight far better than, say, Napoleon. And far better, too, than a man of antiquity. Or a caveman. A caveman of who never, ever saw any object take to sustained flight in the sky knew, comparatively speaking, nothing about the concept of flight—its intricacies and outcomes, what it enabled in terms of rapid transit, in terms of warfare, in terms of exploration of the moon, its limitations, its stresses, the way it was known to spread airborne disease and inhibit sleep, the way you could eat warm meals and urinate easily in a fully plumbed lavatory while in flight, and the way some people had begun using flight as a weapon, as a threat. A caveman, when presented with the current concepts of flight such as they are, would never be able to comprehend the concept of flight as deeply and intimately as he can. Not even close. But he is most concerned not with cavemen but with children. With babies. He is in the terminal of a large airport in a Scandinavian city and he is at the thick scenic window of Gate 45 with a baby in his arms, bouncing it gently up and down, pointing at the airplanes and then up into the sky with the one forearm he’s managed to free, hoping that the baby will not begin to fuss once they board, hoping that the baby will swig an infant’s dose of Benadryl without great occasion and fall fast asleep before they even begin the boarding process, and he is wondering just how much the baby can comprehend about the concept of flight as he is describing it. He decides that though it is, in all likelihood, impossible for the baby to fully grasp flight and all that it means for the world, there is still a good chance that something—the hand motions, the whirring engine noise he’s mimicking through his gritted teeth, or maybe just the possibility of flight, the notion that flight is, impossibly, possible—he decides that something is taking root. The baby is large-eyed, smiling, gaze pinned to the arcing finger pointing out takeoff trajectories. And he decides that if this baby can take from today even just the notion that flight is possible, that there is a way in which man can soar like birds, then today, even with all the crying and annoyed looks from onlookers, will not have been wasted. The earlier this baby can comprehend the concept of flight, the earlier she even begins to believe that the magic of flying is possible, the earlier she will believe in the possibility of other magical things, things that even his own mind has never thought of, things that his brain will prove too clumsy and inadequate to fully grasp. And the type of world that he wants to live in is one filled with the magic of this baby’s thoughts. One where she falls fast asleep as they taxi, and one where flying and its rudimentary concepts prove mere relics of these shortsighted times.