Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

11/18/2003

Confused Analogies, But...

Let's say there's this evolutionary Wallace Line separating different nonrealistic genres. Continental drift has meant a diversification of species that are nonetheless connected vestigally (Latin American magic realism to urban fantasy to East European folklore, etc). Suddenly you have an airplane moving between different biospheres. You can go back and forth! But you don't necessarily dwell on the fact that you can go back and forth. It's a technology. It's more a matter of what you do when you land--how challenging yourself as a writer has transformative and even political (small letter p, as in dwelling in the polis) properties. And rather than hauling these weird animals to the zoo, you try to develop relationships with the people who are already living with and tending to the weird animals and ecospheres. Who are probably more interesting than the people you meet at airports. You have to resist the taxonomic urge, the itch under the skin to canonize. So, finally, all of these layers fall away so that in the end, there really is only one big biosphere. Then the moral and aesthetic questions shift to where everyone has a stake, writer or not--and airplane travel doesn't allow you to escape from your own fragility as a human being. (Everyone is under the same umbrella, trying to stay out of the rain.)

Is it pleasure flights over the pretty landscape or airdropping medicine or landing come hell or high water?

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