It’s the same all over the world. Walk up to a pilot, any pilot, and ask him about flying. I guarantee that he will not spare one word on the business appeal of an aircraft. He will not talk about the time-saving value of air travel. He won’t bother with expense, or prestige, and very rarely on the size and brand of his steed. Instead, you’ll get an elaborate line of gibberish about the joy of flight, soaring like a bird, and other ridiculous things. Listening to them, you get the feeling that they’re trying to explain something inexplicable, unattainable except to the mad souls who fling themselves among the clouds. It’s universal. If you have ever been at the controls of an aircraft in flight, as I have, then no explanation is necessary. If you never have, then no explanation will suffice. There is a beauty, a joy and just a touch of the divine in man’s desire to fly.
For centuries, flight was a metaphor for the unattainable. One might say, “Man might as well learn to fly.” Even today, nearly one hundred years after the Wright brothers flew their clattering contraption into history, flight still symbolizes to us some of the greatest aspirations of the human heart and imagination. Discovery, achievement, vision, adventure, and dreams are all encapsulated in the flap of a feather and the buzz of a propeller. When you’re up in the air, it rapidly becomes clear that there are really only two directions you want go: up, and forward.
We cannot ascend forever. Every aircraft and every pilot has limits. And even when we’ve slipped the surly bonds of the earth and broken through the life-sustaining atmosphere of our small world, there are still all of God’s planets and stars and galaxies to explore. By the time you’ve gone so far up that you’ve escaped gravity, you realize that the whole concept of “up” is merely a comforting illusion, and that to truly fly beyond what is, you would have to do no less than scale heaven. There is no one final destination, only infinite revelation. Truly, it is the trip, the defiant act of flying in the face of the gravity of earth and bound spirit that makes it all worthwhile, rather than any destination we could dream up.
The dreams of humanity, of breaking the shackles of limitation and exceeding the wild hopes of expectation are all embodied in the dream of flight. To fly, to soar. Perchance to dream. And in this dream of flight, may we never forget that when we’re soaring through God’s magnificent sky, it isn’t about getting there. It’s the act of flying that matters. This is what it means to fly.