Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fear of Flying

I'm a nervous flyer.  I'm not paralyzed with fear in the air, but I am nervous throughout a flight--especially during takeoff, and to a lesser extent during turbulence and landing.  I intellectually understand that flying is safe--safer than driving, as a matter of fact.  But my body seems to instinctively know that flying in an airplane at thousands of feet in the air defies all primordial notions of safety, and is basically an act that requires placing complete faith in science.  The "meat" doesn't buy what the intellect is telling it, and only feels comfortable on solid ground.

When I refer to "the meat", I mean my physical body, of course.  By making this statement and separating the perception of my body from that of my intellect, I am making an assertion that the mind/body connection is not as simple as a mindless body inhabited by an all-controlling mind.  I believe that there is more to the "mind" than just the functions of the brain. 

People often talk about "gut feelings"; and, in fact, science has proven that there is tissue in the gut that is remarkably similar to the brain.  There are also the notions of instinct and racial memory that seem to transcend the traditional idea of the separation of mind and body.

So where am I going with this?  I assert that fantasy is the intellectual playground of the "gut".  It is an imaginary realm where instinct and gut feelings are more important than cerebral reasoning.  It's a realm where if things "feel right" then they probably are.  In fantasy, magic is a power borne of belief, faith and feeling rather than observation and science.

That's what fantasy is about--it's about the notion that life is more than the purely mechanical dance of your body and your neurons through the world.  Fantasy embraces the idea that our lives are more than just a giant deterministic dance of  cells leading to a scientifically destined outcome.  It embraces concepts like emotions being meaningful, the journey of the spirit, and magic-- which is often the acceptance of an occurrence without an accompanying scientific explanation of a chain of cause and effect.

I think that a good grounding in fantasy can play a role in connecting with the "mystical" part of our lives.  It's almost  a parallel concept to religion because both involve the acceptance of a chain of causality outside of empirical sensory experience.  Without this mystical connection, I think you can spend your entire life locked in "rational" analysis, and perhaps by doing so, end up missing the entire point of your journey through life.  That's just one man's possibly irrational opinion...

Notably, I did find some comfort on that flight by imagining myself flying in an Atreides ornithopter.  Since I was dealing with "the meat", I had to comfort it with an imaginary image that it was familiar with and fond of.


  1. Good post. I have yet to board a plane, much less fly in one lol.. but I always reasoned *magic* in fantasy, is that world's version of "science". Spells or artifacts of some kind, replacing technology.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Rebecca. I have read books where the magic is a clear parallel to science (and in this particular one there was even a magical equivalent of the Manhattan Project). I prefer magic that is a bit more mystical. Of course I like it to have a consistent feel and some boundaries though.