On Flying

This passage still lingers in my dreams and the recesses of my mind:

There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy suggests, and try it.

The first part is easy. All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it’s going to hurt.

That is, it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.

Clearly, it is the second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.

One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It’s no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won’t. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you’re halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people’s failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.

If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinty, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration. Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all consideration of your own weight simply let yourself waft higher. Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of “Good God, you can’t possibly be flying!” It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.

Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.

Brilliant, Mr. Adams.

Advertisements

Story Rationing

I know that parents fear for their children for many reasons.  

Will they have a job?  Will they be happy?  Will the climate change?

My daughter’s now two. Yesterday I was telling her about Jack & The Beanstalk (or what I could remember of it), and she said “Mommy and Daddy and Nic jump into the story.” So basically, two years old and using metafiction. 

Of all the things in the world, this scares me. I probably should bey more concerned about drinking water in the mid-21st century, but instead I worry that, as a culture, we’re consuming story at too fast a rate.

Where does it end?

Unreliable narration by age four?  Myth modernization tapped out by age six?  The heat death of cross-genre pollination by age ten?

Current media numbers look like what, twenty-five half-hour story lines consumed a day? Add in YouTube punchline story forms, sketches and memes as intermezzi and over the course of a week, what kind of story tolerance will she have built up?

At age twenty, how much plot will she be mainlining, just to keep the withdrawal at bay?