Sunday, January 27, 2013

Shifting Perspectives

Twice I've had the privilege of flying in a small, private airplane. In any mode of travel, I love to look out the window, and plane travel is no exception. I like the view much better at 5,000 feet than the higher altitude of a commercial jet. You can see cars driving on roads like tiny bugs and groups of windmills like white needles coming out of the ground. Golf courses are perfectly smooth and green, but look as if someone came along and scooped out a few spoonfuls for the sand traps. Over the Midwest, almost everything is flat. Fields and roads look like they were marked out with rulers. The only things that look natural are the rivers and groups of trees around them, and sometimes you can see how the water has shaped the landscape, leaving wrinkles in the otherwise even fabric of the earth.

Being removed from the surface changes your perspective in interesting ways. Rather than feeling the wind blow snow across the ground, you can see the strange patterns it makes settling into the fields. The haze of the horizon becomes a perfect circle you can see all around you. Suddenly, you become aware of how large the earth is, and how that enormous distance to the ground is just a thin layer of air and vapor. (How often do pilots have existential moments?)

Simple placement can change how you see things. This is imminently obvious, but the impact of physical space on our minds and emotions isn't always so.

Today, I moved back into my dorm room. I spent much of my last week at home sitting and pondering how weird it was that soon I'd be returning to different spaces and routines. After a month and a half of near-uninterrupted calm, the idea of going to classes and seeing brick buildings out of my window instead of trees and an empty cornfield was almost inconceivable. Now, everything feels normal. The sight of the road leading onto campus was practically more familiar than my kitchen.

I've moved several times, so I very quickly adjust to the idea of different places being "home." Taylor University is home. Lying on the couch with my cat on my stomach is home. Driving in the car with my boyfriend whilst talking about superheros is home. Still, each of those places can change how I see the world and myself.

When I think of the view at 5,000 feet, I wonder what it would be like to  see my life like that all the time. Small things would fade away. Maybe I would be instantly granted a permanent serenity, an ability to transcend my surroundings. Or maybe I would just laugh at the existential moments and the dramatic wording that comes with them. If I try, maybe I can take the new perspective that comes with the shift in surroundings and unite with it a little more wisdom.

Hello, spring semester. I'm trying to see you with new eyes.

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