Monday, March 30

Unfailingly Human. Damn.

I had a hell of a conversation last night. I am still reeling.

The thing is, I wasn't always clear what we were talking about, but that was not only okay, it was intriguing. It called to mind another dear friend's comment, made many years ago, that she counted me as one of her artist friends because when were were talking, sometimes she wasn't at all sure what I was talking about and she felt like she didn't understand what I was saying, but then she just listened and responded, and stayed in the conversation, and so maybe she did know what I was talking about after all. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. The way I heard it, she got it in spite of herself and her perceived limitations. I don't know about you, but I think that's cool. In any case, that's how last night's conversation was for me.

There is absolutely no way to explain what the conversation was about, so it will have to suffice to say that I am aware (at least today, I am) that we were totally speaking in metaphor without necessarily having any idea we were speaking in metaphor (at least until the very end). We were just talking about stuff. Isn't that so cool?

She was talking about flying an airplane, about landing, about air currents, about flight simulators, about the relative cost of gas, of the angle at which an airplane can climb, how far it can go on a tank of gas, what happens if an airplane runs out of gas, how it's different (or not) to fly in the mountains or by the ocean.

I was talking about snorkeling and scuba diving, about currents, tides, reefs, and waves, about neutral buoyancy, about clearing your ears under water, about how long a tank of air lasts (versus how long I would like a tank of air to last), about how surfacing is the hardest part.

I'm not here to tell you that there was any grand conclusion. I'm mostly here to tell you that it made me think. This is why I love the theme of this blog, as hard as it might be sometimes to frame my writing to fit neatly within its confines. Because not getting things is, Sometimes not getting things is frustrating, or infuriating, or maddening, or another synonym that I won't dig for since you already have three. And sometimes not getting things is positively entrancing. There is so much I don't get about our conversation. There is so much I don't get about piloting a small place, especially since I've never done it. There is so much I don't get about diving, even though I have done it. There is so much I don't get about all the amazing things that shared experience holds.

So it turns out, at least for me, that we were talking about having to come to terms with the fact that we are human beings (well, most of us, anyway). That the oceans, which make up almost three-quarters of the surface of earth and hold half of the species that live on our planet, are a land that is not ours. Get this: more than 95% of the oceans have not been explored (not that I really understand what "explored" conjures those darned Columbus images, which turns me off, but I'm mostly just trying to take in the vastness of it all and forget about semantics)! As much as we might feel at home there, as much as we might want to be fish (or whales, or dolphins, or for the couch potatoes among us, a sea anemone), as much as we can pretend to be a denizen of that world with the aid of shiny metal tanks or even robust lungs, it is not our place. And when we travel there, we know that it's not our place. We are limited there. It has its own weather, its only rules, its own landscape. We don't speak the language (not that it matters, since you can't speak anyway with a regulator in your mouth). We can't stay.

And we're not birds either, apparently. Ditto all of the above for the air, for the sky. Except that's not 3/4 of the earth, it's everywhere. And it's still not ours. Kinda gives that arrogance of being human a run for its money, doesn't it? That's what I love about talking (and now writing) about this. It's like one big nanny-nanny-boo-boo to people.

One of the thing she told me is that airplanes don't like to land. Now, I never thought about airplanes as having preferences before, but I get it. They want to be birds. We build them to be metal contraptions which actually float on air (which is kinda incredible, you gotta admit), and then we want them to stop floating on the air whenever we say stop. Sounds like a power play, doesn't it. Humans. Geez.

It is fascinating and compelling to me, the idea that it is not in the leaving our plane (no pun intended. Really.) that we are disturbed. No, we are eager to go. We love to explore, we love to go under the ocean, to go into the sky, to imagine that we are birds, or fish, or some creature that inhabits that place other than the ground. The take-off is easy. Exciting. The underwater descent is relaxing. It's the coming back to our place that's hard. I had thought it might be the opposite, but no. There is resistance--in the case of the subjects of our conversation, even physical resistance--in returning to the place that we are "supposed" to be, as humans.

Weird, huh?

I'm thinkin' that maybe it's like being born, about the biblical story (ha! me, referencing a biblical story!) that teaches us that birth will be painful, as punishment for sin. So maybe leaving the 10 vertical feet or so of airspace in which we live is sin, and we must pay for our return?


Maybe I'll just have to leave it in there as one of the things I don't get. I sure do wonder a lot, though (as if you haven't noticed).

Tonight, I am just so grateful for friends who talk to me about this stuff. May you all have someone to call you up, or better yet, visit from a far distant place, with whom you can have a conversation that you don't quite understand. It's such a gift.


ConverseMomma said...

Look at us both all caught up in flight and flying and thinking about who we are.

I want to be of the ocean. Did you know I was raised on a sandy shore, that I profess to have salt water in our veins? But every time I make my home at the bottom of that silty sea bed, she spits me back out with an unwelcome wave.

Can I tell you that I love your writing? I love your blog? It really is one of the best out there.

Robin said...

Shucks. Thanks.