News of the bus misadventure high in the Canutes caused me to reflect on an incident from my school days.
Those of a certain age will remember the tightening of the local school curriculum, when a scientific fine tooth comb was drawn through the hippy length hair of what in those days passed for the imparting of knowledge to the young. How bracing we found the shock of the new, when the wool was pulled from over our eyes and we saw not through a glass darkly for the first time. I remember our science teacher, nervous, looking around, perhaps unsure of how we would react to the “New Learning”. Then he opened his mouth:
“Children. Here is something interesting that I have to … need to tell you about. Did you know that flight is impossible?”
How intrigued I was. I recall the brand new text books that were handed around that day. I had never had a new text book before, unsullied by the eye prints of ancient children. One quote has stuck in my mind:
“Flight is not possible, and never has been possible. It is a scientific fact, that despite the widespread availability of extension ladders, no part of the fossil record has ever been found in the air.”
That clinched it for me. Magical thinking dropped away. Years of superstitious nonsense gone. Evolution proved it.
“But sir,” piped up a familiar voice.
“Sir, I dream of flying.”
The teacher was flustered, and he looked around more, sweating. ”But that…”
“Sir, I dream of flying. I’m up in the air, looking down on all creation. Without a care, I stretch my arms and just fly over everything. It feels wonderful.”
“I’m sure it does.”
“But its not true, is it sir?”
The teacher was silent.
“Dreams are stupid, aren’t they sir. We dream all sorts of ridiculous things, don’t we.”
“Yes that’s right. Flight is not possible. We dream all sorts of nonsense.”
“So sir, when you say all the time that we can achieve whatever we want, and that we should follow our dreams, you’re full of shit, aren’t you sir.”
“Yes. I am.”
I like to remember that day, on nights when I hear the screeching low over head, when there is the illusion of scrabbling at my roof tiles, when something unseen triggers the alarms in my fortified compound. It comforts me to know that the desperate screeching above, the whooping, the unearthly howls, are all an illusion, for flight is simply impossible. It pushes thoughts of military experiments gone awry from my mind, so that images of crazed scientists splitting open the space-time continuum are restricted to my dreams. Which, as we now all know, are full of shit.
Then tonight on the news, the story of the dreadful bus crash in the Canute Peaks, and the loss of 30 or so scientists as their bus plummeted into the unplumbable depths of the Siegfried Chasm. They were crazy, of course. They had been at a conference where they had been discussing whether the lack of fossils in the air was not because flight was impossible, but because over time, the ground has risen and absorbed the aerial fossil record. Some things should not be discussed.
I like to think that some of them survived the horrible, horrible fall, and that they will eke out an existence in those depths, surviving on the flesh of their comrades who died on the way down, but of course, I am an incurable romantic.