Friday, December 09, 2005

Trainwreck fascination

Yesterday in Chicago, a Boeing 737 from Southwest Airlines, skidded off runway at Midway airport and came to a halt in a nearby intersection, killing a 6 year old boy and injuring several others. I am not a fan of "disaster-porn" nor do I relish catastrophes or the loss of property, limb or life, but there is something in my pre-reptilian brain that latches onto pictures such as this and this. Then my mind spins off and I cannot help but imagine the tiny, fleeting moments that cascade in multitudes, as they always do, but in this case establishing the threshhold that will forever demarcate 'before' and 'after' in some people's worlds.

Looking at the cars crushed beneath, for example, I imagine what it would be like to glance in your rearview mirror and see a plane literally barreling down on you, shoveling traffic poles and snow and other cars ahead of, around and underneath it. Unable to do anything but watch and, even if it was'only' a split second, how those moments seem to suddenly step out of 'normal' time and stretch themselves out impossibly. Also in the first one, with the car at angle, facing the jet engine as if awed into frozen immobility mid-escape, or perhaps simply at resigned rest in acknowledgement of the impossibility of escape, staring certain annihilation in the eye. Only to be spared by literal inches.

There's such an incredible collection of singularly significant moments collectively experienced in a situation such as this, intensified by the crucible effect of the specific circumstances. The scenarios abound and the mind buzzes at the juxtaposition of the big and the small, both of which form a kind of exponentially expanding enormity, because in their own and individual ways, each life is a kind of universe, in and of itself, but also within the greater fabric of life.

Part of what fascinates me on a purely human level about all of this is that it's such a stark reminder that for all of the fretting one may do, for most things in life one hasn't a prayer of a chance of predicting, let alone controlling the course or outcome. Or as Baz Luhrmann said in 'Sunscreen':

Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Understand that I think that life is a precious and wonderful thing, but it's a terminal experience, by definition. A terminal experience whose ending we cannot independently control. I guess you can be accepting of this fact or embittered by it, but either way, you can always hope for a part in a good story.

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