In truth, I almost flew as a kid, if wishing and dreaming could make it happen. I loved my flying dreams. They were of two types: one where I would float, arms outstretched, over green hills and dales. People would look up and be happy to see me. And I was happy to see them. Warm and fuzzy. I was sad when I landed; I couldn’t figure out how to get airborne again. This would sometimes segue into the other kind of dream, in which I dove at the ground from a standing position in the firm belief that I wouldn’t get hurt. Sometimes the setting was the front yard; later, when I tried to levitate that pebble from camp, I sat in the exact place on the grass I had dreamed of flinging myself toward.
My mother tells me (and the occasional journalist or other open ear) that when I was small I once reported to her that I had actually dived at the ground “and it worked!” I was convinced that I had hovered for a second. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.
I enjoyed making small things large by an act of imagination; somehow it never occurred to me to make large things small. I guess it’s because a young child can actually manipulate small things. Medium things, like sofa pillows, become towering palisades, crevasses, and other challenging terrain. Nothing a toy hero can’t handle! In the absence of an “action figure”, two of my fingers would suffice as legs for an adventurer who could leap, scale, run, flip (an interesting wrist motion), and generally be extremely energetic.
But he couldn’t fly.
Someone taught me to make a simple paper airplane, then the trick to making the basic form faster and sleeker. Soon it was decorated with crayon, with notes to a recipient on the other side of the room, with paper clips, with pin-and-pencil-eraser assemblies. My airplanes suffered experiments with scissors and with tape, not to mention ever more exotic origami-inspired folds.
The frustrating part was boarding these aircraft. I couldn’t send my little running man on two fingers along for the ride, nor an action figure. Even paper cutouts would have messed up the flight plans, and anyway, I was a boy – no paper dolls. I would just have to imagine.
When I visited the jungle in South America, I was reminded of those paper-airplane times. There they have “flying snakes” that basically launch themselves at the ground and fail to hit it. Monkeys blithely leap across great gaps in the canopy. Most people gape at this from below, but I got the eye-in-the-sky view. I was terrified when these hefty primates made their bid for the next branch. Would they make it?
Will any of us make it? Another of my favorite flying objects was the humble rubber band. Once I knew how to launch that, boy, nobody’s eyes were safe. I once almost blinded a kid. He almost blinded me. We escaped that time – from pain and from parental punishment.
But in time, we all will have some kind of loss. Some kind of pain. In fact, according to a certain Buddhist monk who went out of his way to make my acquaintance, besides aging and death, everybody suffers sickness…and rebirth.
Now, the news about sickness got me down a little. I figured that if there was a flying boy, there should be at least one human who never got any kind of illness. But Buddha says no. On the other hand, Newton said no to me. Which got me thinking: what about rebirth?
You might think rebirth is a hopeful prospect, another chance for happiness. But again, Buddha says no: it’s another round of suffering, basically. Even if you are reborn as a god in one of the heavens of Buddhist cosmology, you will experience suffering amidst your bliss. And when I heard about being born as a god, I thought: am I a god on Earth?
Well, you can’t just ask someone that – unless you’re me, and you can demonstrate why you’re asking. But whom to ask? My monk friend discounted himself as unqualified. But there’s got to be someone. Why can I fly? Maybe where I was supposed to be reborn, everyone can fly. Then why am I here?
It makes me sad, this feeling of not belonging here. Sometimes. Then I think two thoughts: first, That’s silly. I’m not a god. Second, Someday I’ll find her…the other flying human.