The Frontal Cortex

Flight and Wonder

Flying back from Little Rock, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a 68 year old man who had never flown on a plane before. For most of us, traveling through the air at 400 mph on a steel bird has become such a routine, banal, tiresome, frustrating experience that it’s nice to be reminded of the incredible aspects of flight. The laws of physics are rather impressive.

There’s also something deeply infectious about the state of wonder. I couldn’t help but share, at least a little bit, the awe of the man sitting next to me. He thought the cotton ball clouds were gorgeous and loved the look of the land when seen from thirty thousand feet. (“It’s all so straight,” he kept on saying about the grid of farms.) He was even impressed by the fact that, once you reach cruising altitude, you are above the weather. There is nothing but cerulean blue sky.

Of course, these are all exceedingly trite observations. I guess what I found interesting, though, is how quickly the mind adapts to the spectacular, how soon we start taking wonders for granted. (Ah, habituation…) Instead of thinking about the clouds, we think about that tube of toothpaste confiscated by the TSA because it was 4 ounces, not 3. Or that two-hour wait on the runway of La Guardia. Or the seven dollars you just paid for a crappy turkey sandwich. And then, just when flying couldn’t get any more tedious, you happen to sit next to someone who has never done it before. And the wonder returns.

Update: The wonder is gone. My connecting flight is delayed. And I still have no toothpaste.


  1. #1 McDawg
    March 19, 2008

    Dear Jonah,

    Please except my humblest apologies for not dropping by this Sb before.

    I have way too many interests.

    Thanks so much for blogging about this so unusual experience !!

    Not every year (life) that such an event might happen.

    I somewhat doubt that the ‘person next to you’ would have had much time to play around with thisin-flight (purportedly) entertainment.

  2. #2 Your sister
    March 19, 2008

    Ha Ha. Your update made my day.

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