01 November 2008

In Case of Emergency, Leave Everything Behind

Just before the plane takes off, I am one of those people who always pay attention to the instructions on what to do if something goes wrong. We are few – because most passengers are already busy with leafing through in-flight magazines, sending last minute text messages or just chatting to their friends who are travelling with them. Plane journeys evoke a strange emotional reaction in me. Often I even cry a little while the plane is speeding up seconds before it climbs on top of the hot air current. I am not afraid of the ‘something can go wrong’ scenario. Ultimately, I am not afraid to die. What I dread is the disconnection between my body and my soul – and this is what normally happens to me. My body crosses several thousands miles in a few hours and when I reach my final destination, I feel as if I had left my soul behind. And no matter how clearly I know that the soul has no concept of time and space, I always feel lost and incomplete when I land at the destined airport.

As a true romantic, I believe that in the old days things were simpler. People travelled on horses or ships and allowed their emotional landscape to slowly adjust to the changes of the outside world. There was time to leave things behind, to stop thinking about everything and everyone we couldn’t take with us and they slowly and naturally merged with the new reality. Modern times create sudden and shocking crevices between then and now. We are forced to let go of our world within seconds, in those minutes when the flight attendant is showing us our nearest emergency exit.

Modern times are crueller. We have time only to think about us. In case of an unfortunate event, the oxygen mask drops from above you. You breathe first and only then help others. Modern times force us to think about that most precious, most valuable thing without which we cannot live. What is the thing that we carry inside us everywhere we go? What should we never leave behind?

Last time I buckled up on the plane to Croatia, I was experiencing a kind of spiritual emergency. I was leaving one life behind – a knot of sadness, regret, anger and guilt. I could sense how each emotion was holding tight to the English ground, as if connected to the air strip with heavy rings. I knew the plane was about to detach from my London home, but I still wasn’t ready to let go. The physical motion is rarely enough to untie and release the emotional ball and chain. We can travel the world and still run around in circles, going mad in the claustrophobic chamber of our tired heart. This time, I think I even overheard the flight attendant’s safety drill. I woke up when I heard her words, which I swear they normally don’t use on short European flights: in case of emergency, leave everything behind.

Everything didn’t mean my suitcase, my sandwich or my iPod. It meant my mistakes, regrets, things and people that drain me, even desires and ambitions which tell me that I am never good enough. So, I closed my eyes and I severed those ropes that a minute ago were strong enough to take the whole continent with me. I located the nearest emergency exit and I took off. I took only me.