Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life—well, valuable, but small—and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?When I took my first-ever airplane trip, I expected to be amazed. I really thought that I would be knocked off my feet, thrilled, utterly flabbergasted by the completely unique experience of flying above the clouds, soaring so much higher than I'd ever been in my life.
I buckled into my seat before takeoff, a bit apprehensive, then prepared myself for the roller-coaster feeling. It came, my stomach dropped, and we were in the air. When I looked out the window, the first word that came to mind was patchwork. The ground below looked like a patchwork quilt. And it immediately occurred to me how many times that word had been used in connection with flying. Books, magazines, movies, other people, they all describe the fields looking like patchwork.
This was the first disturbing thing. What followed was a few minutes of frustration as I tried to describe what I was seeing in completely original terms. It was hard. Every phrase that came to mind sounded hackneyed and cliche. The real shock was that even what I was seeing with my own eyes seemed not only familiar, but old. How many photos had I seen of the clouds? How many images of soaring wings? Dozens? Hundreds? It seemed so unfair that my first experience was almost spoiled because I had already experienced flying through blog posts, books, movies, etc. There was so little mystery, so little wonder.
In the weeks that followed my trip I kept thinking about this. How many times do we get "spoilers" for life? Perhaps you've had this experience: you see a gorgeous waterfall, or an amazing sunset, or a charming couple, and it perfectly fits all of the photos you've seen and the songs you've heard. Obviously, eating a cake is not the same as reading a cake recipe, but you know what I mean. We've become desensitized to some of the most wonderful things in life because practically anything we want is right at our fingertips. LIFE: Just Google It.
The more I thought about it, the more things clicked into place. The internet isn't the only place where we can get information overload. Music, food, luxuries, all of them can overwhelm us and make us take things and places and experiences for granted. What about romance? After reading just about everything Jane Austen ever wrote and writing my own novel involving a romance, I almost feel as if I have fallen in love countless times already. Is it possible that any real romance I may one day have will be somewhat spoiled by all of that previous "experience"?
Is this necessarily a bad thing? I'm not sure. After all, I can't hide my face from beautiful calendars, or walk away from all television, or quit hearing peoples' stories. But there is at least one nasty consequence of these "spoilers" that I know of: ingratitude. Whenever something truly remarkable—like flying—comes across my path, the wonder of it is lessened because I have already seen it or done it, however artificially. A certain measure of this is inevitable, but too much of it and one could begin to forget how wonderful one's life truly is.
It's important that we make our own experiences, and not just rely on reading and hearing about other peoples' adventures. While on that plane I did something that no actor or author had ever done before: I made Abigail Rogers talk to people. I conversed, shared ideas and received them, laughed, and enjoyed myself. I wrote the script, so-to-speak, which is something that you can't do when reading someone else's blog post of surfing through Google Images.
So here's my challenge for you: instead of reading about my airplane flight, hop a plane yourself! I would hate to lose any readers, but if you're reading this blog instead of forging your own path and making your own adventures, by all means stop reading right now and get to work.
Airplane Window, a photo by contraption on Flickr., Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe Side, a photo by jurvetson on Flickr.