To Evangeline L. Lindbergh (first letter)

Dear Mrs. Lindbergh,
I’m watching a rainstorm as your son buzzes past. He’s flying a contraption that seems lighter than a wet suit and bigger than a dinosaur (made of plastic pipes and drop sheets held together with zip ties).
There he goes again — such a melancholy pretender. He’s like a new Icarus, one who knows better than the old Icarus but repeats his mistakes anyway.
He demarcates a threshold of lost significance above this city I’ve been trying to live in. He slips along a skyline constantly erasing itself.
He’s disappearing over the horizon again. He’s going out to sea. No one doubts he’ll make it to the other side anymore.
These thoughts bring me back to that first solo flight across the Atlantic. It’s as if I’m there with him. Charles keeps looking down over the side of the cockpit. The ocean whisks by (sometimes less than twenty feet below the plane’s cloth underbelly). Wave crests glisten in the moonlight.
Charles wiggles in his hard wicker seat. His empty stomach keeps him awake. At times he flies blind. He accepts the immanence of death (but death never comes). For over 28 hours he is made aware of the selflessness required to commune with the eternal.
Your boy comes back to you, and this time you allow yourself to cry as you embrace him for the cameras. You abandon your “good Nordic stock” reserve.
Your sense of self is transformed. Profound relief alters your conception of humanity.
Charles would later wonder:
“Will men fly through the air in the future without seeing what I’ve seen, without feeling what I have felt? Is that true of all things that we call human progress — do the gods retire as commerce and science advance?”
I’d like to tell you I don’t wonder about this stuff much at all Mrs. Lindbergh. Sometimes it can seem as if we’ve always been oblivious to our Being-In-The-World (from the moment the first words were uttered by our ancestors — just before we imagined gods in our image — as our sense of autonomy was born through culture).
Your son managed to experience what life was like before we cast ourselves out of it (before we tried to represent it), but this discovery seems forever lost and found, to him and everyone else.
It’s as if our delusions inevitably catch up with us.
jeremy