Sunday, 25 October 2009

Question Mark

A graceful curve, a succinct point. One flow here to a pause, followed by a simple dot. The question mark; a wonderful addition to our world.

It is not about the look of this object but what it represents. "Question everything.". That is a human birthright. What separates as from animals if not our reason? At the heart of reason is the quest for knowledge, inner and outer. Curiosity is the antidote to ignorance.
Curiosity is a question mark.
I can imagine a long queue of human beings milling along a busy city street. The view of them is from above as they walk to and fro. Over each head, a clear question mark follows like a punctuation halo. Some are as clear and bright as an oil slick, others are dulled, many have their forms nearly scratched through although the shape remains the same.

We are born curious creatures. We learn at a rate that a computer could not hope to quantify before we even understand what a computer is. Curiosity and reason are as inbuilt as love. I don't doubt that in years to come the curiosity gene will be discovered with a big "I told you so" written all over it. The truth is the gene is unimportant; exercising curiosity is what really matters.

Time seems to go so fast that we are being dragged along with it like barnacles holding fast to a speeding ship. The temptation for the human being in this state is to accept, anything. Be it the status quo, the safest option or whatever is handed to them on a plate. Sometimes all of the above.

Question everything. If you see an irrational world, question it, dig deeper than what you are told is the answer. If you yourself have an irrational thought, question yourself.

I discovered recently that the question mark was also known as the interrogation point. Like a full stop with attitude. But the "interrogation point" sounds apt. Interrogate life, question the why and the wherefores. Look behind the veneer of stated fact and ask the difficult questions as well as the easy ones.

It was not too long ago that I was pleased with an ivory tower, filled with exclamation marks and full stops. I questioned nothing if I felt it would interfere with my ivory tower. Most of all, I never questioned if I was truly happy. Difficult questions are easy to avoid because we know deep down the answer might serve as a challenge. A challenge to re-examine, change or even grow.

To grow is something adults are unused to. The mind and heart are as settled as the flesh and bones they inhabit. We remember the pain of teething and fear the same again, perhaps more acutely this time. It is a genuine fear. But we should all remember that teething was a temporary stage that passed and was forgotten like a fallen autumn leaf. We gained something new and better after it. We gained a freedom we had not anticipated but gladly welcomed.

Curiosity is just the same. It awaits, ready to be tapped into. It is everywhere and in everything. It enables us the chance to grow before we cannot grow anymore. It gives us a gift to not just react and follow, but to reason, decide and choose what we will. The question mark is a friend on the tip of your tongue.


Thursday, 15 October 2009

Come Fly with Me

Thanks are in order before I begin this post. Three lovely ladies graced me with sweet awards on the sidebar, Shell, Vanessa and Lori, your blogs are unique and I thank you for the warmth and sweetness you bring here. Do check out their blogs if you have not already. Now, for mentioning something about me not mentioned before (as asked):

I would like to share a private dream with you - as yet unfulfilled;
I've always wanted to fly. Preferably in a small plane, over Africa, Asia, anywhere that is rich with landscape, colour and wonder. To be a skilled aviatrix is something I don't see happening for a while, time being one reason. But sometimes the dream catches me softly and I allow myself to smile in its familiar hold.

I want to know what it is like to control and master a delicate and precarious engine. I want to know the feeling of human melding with wing and horizon until you are one motion. Most of all I seek the dream of soaring skillfully, as if I was born in the air.

Dear all, how to describe why I am always touched by this film sequence, where even the tiny screen does it some justice. If you get goosebumps and your heart swells, I understand. From the overhead view of Africa to John Barry's golden music, this is beauty designed to make every human ache.

May I present to you three aviatrix (except Amelia, I intend to write a post for her alone) who were not only capable of all of the above but were TRUE examples in their courage, dedication and quest for adventure. These are real pioneers. They had no publicists, pop songs or photoshopped spreads, they were only themselves. Lovely.

A brilliant and feisty girl from Texas, who after being denied flying lessons because of her colour, saved and travelled to France in 1921, where they allowed women and African-Americans to obtain the difficult international pilot's license. She was the first American woman to gain it. She returned to The States, aged twenty-nine, to much acclaim and continually worked hard to be a flyer, activist and lecturer across the country. The first African-American aviatrix proclaimed, "I refused to take no for an answer".

This was true for Elly Beinhorn-Rosemeyer (see last post). She started off as an only child with a thirst for life and a desire to break through the city walls surrounding her. Long distance-flying became her dream despite opposition. In 1931, aged twenty-three (two years after gaining her license) she flew solo from Europe to Africa, carrying a mosquito net and water. On her return to Germany, she pointed to an Atlas and said that she would like to try, "Somewhere on the right"; this was Elly. She then flew over Mt. Everest, Bali and Australia then returned to the African coast, the last time with her husband. She turned in her license aged seventy-two voluntarily, knowing she had tasted her dreams.

Imagine the early days of aviation. You are like Columbus in a small drag plane. All you have is a compass and basic instruments. In front is an open cockpit window and no roof. The wind rushes past your face, bellowing at you, as you lift and lift higher into the air. Surrounding you is the sky, intimate and vast.

Ascha Donnels, Californian aviatrix, remembered on her ninety-ninth birthday:
“I could imagine that I was sitting on the edge of a cloud, looking out over the whole world. In those days there was no smog, and you could smell the fragrances of oranges, whatever you were flying over, at all altitudes."

Achsa: “I had no sense of fear. In fact…when they learned about it (first flight), my family said I had no sense, period.”

I wonder what it was like; below you have left not only reality as you know it, but the thoughts of the age. Very few people if any believe you should be up there. To them a woman in jodhpurs is hideous, let alone a woman in a plane. They cannot believe your choice and yet, some of them admire you for it. A lonely place is knowing you are doing the right thing although few understand.

But up in the air, the wind is knocking the truth back into you, "It doesn't matter" and it really doesn't. You are electrified and more free than most on this planet. You inhale adventure and light. The engine roars its encouragement, you go higher, "This is the world and I am its dove". Everything seems minute below, but you feel oddly protective of it, somehow more enchanted. It is true that distance makes the heart grow... not fonder, but aware of good.

I think that flight taps into our consciousness in a manner few things can match. On the one hand, it is spectacular to roam the planet as a winged being.

On the other hand, it serves as metaphor: Striving and reaching higher than you thought possible; facing oneself at a dizzy height; finally, mapping your journey and taking charge of destiny. Wherever it takes you, at least you follow a map and compass. So this is my dream to be one with the sky and use my compass wisely. I hope you have enjoyed your flight.