Rising Above the Haze

I feel like there’s something special about the view of the sky at higher altitudes… maybe it’s from being physically nearer to the clouds, or perhaps it’s something in the air pressure; probably it’s a combination of both. Or perhaps it’s just my own placebo fooling my senses because I feel so powerfully that I am at finally where I belong. There are times when the sky looks so strikingly indistinguishable from the most beautiful painting, just placed there in all its glory so high above us, particularly at those fleeting times when the sunlight hits the clouds from just that right angle to unleash those gorgeously glowing vanilla skies.

Whatever the case, I find it so incredibly interesting that there is so much grandeur in this world all around us, particularly in the sky so high above us because we rarely get the chance to view it from any other angle than we have here at ground level. We’re so utterly confined to the planet’s surface, not necessarily any less beautiful in its own right but so much less identifiable simply because we are so bounded by the surface, by the relentless tug of gravity rooting us to it. But when we get those exceedingly rare opportunities to free ourselves from these chains and actually bring ourselves up above the haze of the surface world we spend so much of a majority of our time viewing it all from, and look upon the same familiar world yet from such an unfamiliar vantage point, there is so much more beauty laid bare we are otherwise entirely ignorant of.

Consider a simple airplane trip, for example. As the plane begins to roll down the runway it’s not so different from any typical car ride. You feel the wheels rumbling over the imperfections of the pavement, and the shuddering of the vehicle as those vibrations rumble through its body. But something amazing happens as the plane reaches that critical speed and the upward lift of air acting on the craft’s body almost seems to cause the oh-so-familiar ground to just casually drop away just as much as it seems like the plane is actually being lifted up from it all.

And then gradually the influence of humanity upon the planet grows less and less apparent, even as the networks of straight lines and right angles so absent from the natural structure of things bare themselves so glaringly to you. The awesome immensity of the planet is further revealed to you as you climb higher and higher and still there is no end in sight. What a truly gigantic landscape we are all a part of!

As you approach the cloud line which was once so high above, so utterly and completely out of your reach and comprehension, you start to notice what I have found to be one of the most striking observations I have ever witnessed—that the blanket of clouds, for the most part, is so much like another surface, as if occupying its own sphere encircling the planet. This was never apparent to me looking up from the ground. But gazing down from the window of an airplane I find myself captivated by this; somehow it’s incredibly beautiful that this should be the case.

And you realize how relatively insignificant we each are, individually for sure but even as a whole. There are no actual boundaries; unless you’re looking at a fabricated map you could not possibly tell that some arbitrary invisible line separates one state, or one country, from the next. You see how pockets of civilization tend to be tightly packed, especially around significant landmarks, almost as if huddling together against the incredibly vast expanses of unsettled wilderness still surrounding so much of our prized civilization.

Even the cities themselves don’t have actual boundaries. There is no protective bubble enclosing a city and declaring it as such. If not for the signs on the roadside, or the data from your GPS, you would not truly know that you have entered or exited some decided “city limit.” No, they are simply collections of structures and grids placed upon the Earth’s surface, utterly at the mercy of all of nature’s influences just as everything else is. They have no privileged rights, no advantage over any other point on the globe except for the most carefully positioned among them. You’re just surrounded by structures and a certain density of other people.

At some height the roads and highways vanish into obscurity, as do entire cities at sufficient elevation. From high enough above the surface you cannot even see evidence of the presence of our own race, except maybe for the grid work of landscaping so blatantly obvious because of all the straight lines and right angles. But then your aircraft starts to descend upon its destination, ever so gradually, and you are left to observe the reverse of all of these thought processes as this privileged vantage point is taken back from you, and your suddenly-heavy feet are returned to within the haze of Earth’s solid surface so that the glory of it all can tower over you so tantalizingly once more.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 11:25 PM | 0 comments