|For example, I would be so happy daydreaming while watching|
these nice people paint this mural. It's at Caboose Cafe in
Ramsgate, England. They have storytelling there!
Unfortunately for me, this works inversely also: if I am somewhere ugly, I can't write anything. My imagination flutters weakly and dies. And this is a shame, because the ability to recall the beautiful is most of what keeps my soul from being crushed by the ugly.
When I say "beautiful" and "ugly" I don't mean anything canonically stupid like beautiful-gothic-church versus ugly-dirty-laundromat. "Dirty" isn't what I mean by ugly. "Broken" isn't what I mean by ugly. They're not, say, my favorite things, and I find laundromats pretty depressing for the most part, but I can find something in them: a story, a sense of humor, pathos, a feeling of humanity.
In visual terms, what I mean by "ugly" is something that my soul can't make any room for. Something my aesthetic sense just slides away from. Something my spirit can't quite seem to grasp.
Anything with a lot of molded plastic tends to fall into this category. That's the hardest thing about laundromats for me, the molded plastic, the sameness of the machines, the bland lighting.
It doesn't even begin to compare to the inside of an airplane.
Airplanes eat my soul.
|This is from the Boeing website. Look, even|
the edges of the picture are curved. For your
comfort and security, prob
I'm sure they do this on purpose.
There is nothing whatsoever on your average airplane to make you think of, well, anything at all. Airplanes are one of the blandest, most spiritually vacuous spaces on the planet. There's all the gently curved neutral-toned plastic with a texture that's just displeasing enough that you don't really want to touch it but not so displeasing that you feel anything as intense as revulsion. There's the seats that are slightly too static but not so much as to be thoroughly maddening. There's the dull palate of colors.
|Good luck sticking this in your airplane.|
Stream running through Lamar Valley,
Yellowstone National Park. Photo by
Ian Plant of Dreamscapes.
I'm fairly sure that the curves on airplanes work along roughly the same psychological lines as the padding in a padded cell. They are there to neutralize. To keep us sedate. Right along with the hideous shade of blue they use for the chairs, which, according to Boeing, is associated with "peace" and "nobility". (You can't make this stuff up.)
Boeing also says, in the same article linked above, that they will soon be adding "three new sidewall motifs for airlines to select that repeat some patterns found in nature." If you haven't noticed any vaguely tree-shaped stickers on your plane walls recently, well, the article's from 2002. It read oddly like a dispatch from that ship on Frogstar World B that Zaphod wanders into.
I find that being inside an airplane simply shuts off my imagination. I can't bring my brain to break through the walls. Everything I look at is designed to essentially cancel out the radical thought that I am flying, or, really, doing anything at all. The eye glazes. There is such a spectacular lack of anything to look at that it's really kind of astonishing. I mean, where else do you willingly go that is so utterly devoid of any form of decoration, color, or visual interest?
|I WANT TO GO TO HERE|
Instead, you can't wait to leave.
To really and truly understand that you are flying, you need a certain amount of imagination, a certain suspension of the humdrum. The interior of the modern airplane is precisely designed to neatly squash our sense of wonder. What, I ask you, could be more dull? If the powers-that-be really wanted to destroy our minds, they'd put us all in little plastic boxes full of curved beige molding and ambient lighting and slightly uncomfortable chairs. The experience of joy would fall right out of our minds, and with it any reason to fight back. That is what I call ugly.
There are many horrible and dark and awful things in the world, but they animate us, they keep us going. Our horror, our outrage, our fear - not nice feelings, to be sure, but they keep us on our feet. What is ugliest of all is complacency. Complacency doesn't come from the prison or the war zone. It comes from the sick slick plastic of the inside of an airplane. Here we are, flying. FLYING. And somehow we don't spend our entire flight in rapture with our freedom from the earth. We hardly even know what's happening. The sound of the engines drowns out the silence of the air. The tiny windows gives us an occasional glimpse of cloud formations, like a nicely framed photograph. We admire them for a while, but the eye drifts away after a while, back into the cabin. We reject the lovely and the impossible because it's such hard work to look at it when the pleasantly dull reality of the space around us is lulling us back in. Most of the time we watch TV, or sleep, and wait for it to be over.
I had this idea that next time I get on a plane I'll bring a box full of amulets with me. Stone eggs. Bits of bone. Small bronze gods. Little bottles. A silk cloth. When they tell me I'm allowed to put my tray table down I'll take out the box and set up an altar. Some battery-operated tealights in ornate holders at the edges. Dried flowers in the bottles. A little water in a tiny terracotta bowl. A string of beads. I won't do anything with it. Just set it up, and leave it there throughout the flight. Write in my journal, read my book. And glance up every now and then to remember the world's out there, in all its wonder and it mystery, thirty thousand feet below my floating spirit.