The Illusion of Safety

A lot of people are afraid to fly.

My mother-in-law has never set foot on a commerical airplane. Other people will get on the plane, but medicate themselves to do it. It’s less a fear of flying than a fear of crashing, really. On an airplane, one gives up total control to someone else. You’re strapped in, encased in a device that hurtles you to another place and spits you out again. Even if you understand the physics, it still seems wrong. It’s hard to know which are good sounds and which are bad. (I’ve been assured that I’m better off NOT being able to recognize the errors and close calls.) And when the great winds, toss you around, you’re ironically happy the ground is still so far away and not close enough to dash up against.

But really, this lack of control is the norm; being on an airplane just makes it more obvious.

We go through life seeking the illusion of safety. We follow the rules, obey the traffic laws, make smart decisions about where to walk at night. But the universe is a random place and none of us know when our thread will be snipped.

I think about this when I feel superstitious. Ill omens like cancelled flights and bad weather make me pause, make me wonder if I’m fighting fate. When I’m tossed around in the sky or, worse, as the runway rapidly approaches, I wonder if this will be my time. Forever writing my own life story, I assemble the foreshadowing events. And then remind myself that, in that case, I wouldn’t be there to write the worst part, the suffering part.

I’m oddly comforted by that and snooze while the plane rocks me.

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