Everyone says that man can’t fly.
But they’re wrong.
I’ve flown once.
I don’t mean in a plane, encased in a steel tube and subject to a dependence on someone else. And I don’t mean falling–knifing through the air, being inexorably pulled down towards water or earth or death or whatever we aim for when we leap.
I mean I’ve flown–free from the shackles of my own body–truly separated from the ground, not quite high enough to reach Heaven.
It came about unexpectedly, like Douglas Adams said it would. I just sort of fell and missed the ground. I wasn’t even trying; in fact, I was probably trying to bury myself alive when it happened.
I had been at a worship service. By all of my cultural standards, it was a good, Spirit-filled service, with all the right sacraments. There was an electric guitar and a drum set. They even threw in a light show. You couldn’t help but feel God in the place.
But I didn’t. I was disillusioned with the whole thing. It felt fake, artificial–they were trying to manipulate me and make me feel the Holy Spirit. But I wasn’t having it. Like a tight-lipped prisoner being interrogated, I resisted it. The worship leader, with his Fender and his John Mayer impersonation, circled me and prodded and probed and shined bright lights in my face, but I resisted. And eventually I was released, but not before I saw her.
She was in the front row. She was actually sitting for most of the songs that were played. I was perched high up in the auditorium, surveying the scene. I wouldn’t have noticed her if she hadn’t stood near the end; it had to have been the second-to-last song at the earliest. As she stood, I thought to myself that I had just lost a comrade in arms; a rare holdout against those trying to break us. And then she did something to cement my perception.
She stretched out her arms.
Like a bird floating on a firm headwind, or a butterfly caught in draft, she stood there with her arms reaching out like she would come off the ground in a moment. It was as if the sky, shut out by the metal ceiling of the auditorium, would pluck her out of the place, but the roof was in the way. And so she stood there–for a second or a year–with her arms outstretched and eyes shut tight.
I left with a smug sense of defiance, a touch of bitterness. The whole thing had been a sham, but what I had seen most certainly was not. People cannot pick themselves up and whisk themselves away into the sky, into a blue night flecked with the lights from celestial cities. They couldn’t. And they certainly couldn’t at the hands of some 3rd rate musician attempting to trigger an internal mechanism to be mistaken for the Divine. Well, it may have gotten her, but it wouldn’t get me.
I got on my motorcycle and headed home. The sky was almost a burden, with its dark expanse swallowing me in its immensity. As I pulled under the neon gaze of a stoplight, I looked up and saw the sky reaching out to me–trying to crush me between ghostly fingers.
I slammed off the light. First, second, third, fourth, fifth. The gears clicked in rhythm as I raced away from those ephemeral hands; a two-legged horse streaking over Los Angeles pavement. The air tunneled out in front of me, urging me on, holding back the night sky for a second longer, till I could make it home and paint some blood on my door and just let the whole thing pass over.
It started in me chest, and blossomed out through my body, pricking fingertips and toes–a hum distinct from that of my horse. It pushed against my skin and bones, crowding them aside. I didn’t know what to do; the sky had not caught me, the earth had not swallowed me. I raced faster and faster, and as I did, so did the humming. It sped ever quicker to my brain and body, and then raced back to my heart, and returned again anew.
I stretched out my arms.
And I flew.
Oblivious to the lights, the night, life and death, I flew above the ground, above the sky, above myself. I danced, suspended between Heaven and Hell, for a second–for a year. Time froze to watch me, and I saw it stretched out, back to the Beginning and running to the End. And I drifted above it. There was no ceiling to hold me, no tether to restrain, no dependence on breath or bread or moments–and so I flew.
If I hadn’t been so entranced, I could have made it around the world before I came back down. I could have seen every single human being, everything about them. Free of definition by anything other than the imprint on their souls, I might have known every one of them. I might have even gotten around to myself. But I was too fascinated, too caught up.
When I came down, I was back on my motorcycle, my hands on the bars. The night sky had returned to guarding Heaven. The air had opened up. I still race along.
I race to get Home.