The screen reads Kennebunkport, Lawrence, Fall River, Gulf of Maine. A toy plane follows a red line across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris, Nice, Algiers, the Celtic Sea, the Bay of Biscay. It is 1:26 New York time and 7:26 in Paris. Over three thousand miles have been traveled, translating to over 5,000 Kilometers. The plane heading into the sun is suddenly filled with blinding light. This is the miracle that we all take for granted. Joyce’s Stephen Daedalus is the symbolic son of Icarus, who flew too high, but is the triumph of air travel a form of hubris for which nature intermittently rises up in vengeance, in the form of mechanical failures and terrorist incidents that humble the awesome mechanical birds? During the Pleistocene era, huge pterodactyls filled the sky. Are jets the distant relatives of these prehistoric creatures, who fell victim to the asteroid that created the ice age out of which the early forms of man, Homo habilis and Australopithecus, would eventually rise? For all the modernity of the contraption and the way it’s taken its place in the repertoire of modern consciousness (remember the innocence of St Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince?), there is something frighteningly primitive about the way these flocks of man’s invention fill the skies. The screen in the cabin is a cartoon of defiance against the laws of gravity. Will modernity someday face the equivalent of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, now trying crimes against humanity? If it is true that laws of nature are made to be broken—and time will tell the extent to which our carbon footprint has been formed by fuel consuming conveniences like air travel—who will answer for these crimes and what will the sentence finally be?
[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]