Above and beyond risk

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I am thirty thousand feet above the ground. I watch the sun slowly slip behind the horizon, leaving a golden haze and the bright, white circles of light beaming inside our cabin, slowly fade.
The sight disappoints me.
Around me is a vast expanse of clouds – an almost alien landscape.
We could travel to anywhere on this planet with a slight dip of a wing but we have a destination.
We move relentlessly on, straight, fast, determined.

Beneath the clouds, on the plains, within the forests or upon the savannahs and steppes, we are a resilient species with an almost unrivaled ability for endurance and adaption. The human body, built for covering vast distances is incredible – it is incredibly well suited to any and all of the world’s climates and terrains with an adaptable temperature control and an adaptable diet. No other animal is so skilled and so adaptable. We are supreme in our natural environment.

I realise, at thirty thousand feet, that we have now built an environment where we are fragile, vulnerable, soft, pathetic.

A few years ago, our plane dropped in an air pocket and continued dropping for almost five seconds – an eternity of white-knuckled, screaming hell – until we slammed into an air current that supported us and our fifty tonnes of metal. Since then, every time I fly – or indeed drive in a car, I feel a strong sense of how fleeting life can be. Whether in a plane flying on holiday, or driving to a training session. – Both absurdities that only humans could think of. Both potentially dangerous.

Ultimately, in our attempts to conquer the world, we will build an environment that will conquer us. We are now no longer resilient in our new mechanical, combustion, blast furnace sheet metal, concrete and tarmaced world. Our soft, little bodies are now insufficient – we need to regress to a more primitive, crustacean form if we wish to survive.

But then again, there will always be risk and people will always seek it, confront it, challenge it. For all the risks we smudged off the face of the Earth, an equal number we created. A universal equilibrium – a power play of the forces. Regardless, we can only make life decisions based on our interpretations of risk versus the survival or reward. We are always walking a tight rope, sometimes it’s on the ground and sometimes, high up.

I lean back, look at the vast expanse of clouds beneath me and the first stars appear above me. I think about my destination. – I continue flying straight ahead: relentlessly, fast and determined.

I have become supersticious. I wear with pride a t-shirt I earned at an international competition because if we reach terminal velocity and death wants to look us the in the face, I’ll be unfazed.

But it won’t happen.

The engines continue to roar and my heart continues to beat.



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