From Above, We
Can See Forever
It’s been said that Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont died, 80 years ago last July, of a broken heart. An avowed pacifist, he simply couldn’t believe that his lifetime efforts developing a heavier-than-air craft were being used to create the war’s most lethal weapon of the time.
Since it’s International Civil Aviation day, let’s check some photographs, taken from airplane windows, of a few cities dominating the world news cycle. But you’ll see neither mayhem nor excitement about what’s happening on the ground, because they all look peaceful and beautiful from above.
While Damascus remains under siege, people in Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv keep vigil, even as the rhythms of their every day life resume. Egyptians are out in the streets of Cairo, while in Juba, Sudan, another journalist has been killed for criticizing the government.
As for Americans, thousands continue to fight and die in the mountains of Afghanistan, but their sacrifice is hardly ever mentioned in the daily news. It’s much more likely that you’ll be reading about Denver and Seattle and how they’re yet to implode, now that’s legal to smoke marijuana there.
Santos Dumont had no idea how much worse things were going to get before they arguably improved, but maybe that was the idea. Airplanes did become one of the most effective ways for humans to kill other humans, and let’s not get started about drones. They also serve for a variety of great things too, though.
One doesn’t even need to be high to acknowledge and enjoy the fact that airplanes also helped us realize how much closer we’re of each other than our ancestors believe, and how beautiful the world really is, regardless of all stupid and senseless things we do with this knowledge.
Thus, it was probably for the few hundreds of thousands currently flying overhead, traveling from country to country, visiting dear ones or meeting complete strangers, that this day was created in 1996. To mark then 50 years of civil aviation, which undoubtedly brought us a bit closer.
It’s quite possible that Orville and Wilbur Wright also shared some idealism about the future of their invention. We can’t help but reaching a sobering realization though: that the dream of flying is as ancient and immemorial to humans as our will to wage war and conquer.
As if we’re bound to reenact the myth of Icarus over and over again, we’re still led by the same intoxicating, and ultimately doomed, drive: our desire to soar free and overcome our humanity, and ambition to dominate nature and obliterate our adversaries. In the meantime:
‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. In just a few minutes, we’ll be landing on the International Airport of…’