Thoughts in the air


Photo: Andrei.

I have flown many times. However, whenever I board a plane, I still have the thought that this flight may be the last. This happens today as well, but, just in all similar occasions, I am somehow okay with this idea, and this is because of the situation I am in. I am together with all these different people, the gentleman who has already fallen asleep, even before the take-off, the young lady who looks dreamingly on the window, perhaps thinking at a boyfriend who was left behind, or the lady in front of me, who holds a smart phone in her very manicured hands, texting furiously to one, two, or many people at the same time. And I am especially together with the old African lady who sits next to me–I find out she is from Ghana–who holds her hand in prayer, chanting something in her language. She is somewhat in a different reality. She has spoken loudly on the phone, and now chants in a peaceful, calming tone, perhaps placing her life in the hands of the Almighty. So many different people with so many different problems, but at this moment, all together in a box that is ready to fly. It feels as if we are all one.

I open my book and read the first line from Aristotle’s Physics 1.3. “We shall see that it is impossible for ‘all things to be one.'” Aristotle argues with Parmenides and Melissus, but in my context the sentence surprises me and sounds differently. For indeed it is impossible for all things to be one, regardless of how much I feel one with the old lady from Ghana who sits next to me, who calls the flight attendant out of nowhere, even if he is speaking at the same time with someone else, two rows in front of us. Or who moves her legs in “my space,” and not because she does not have space, but rather because there seems to be no personal space for her. There is a certain genuineness in all of her gestures. The social requirements of the West have not yet taken hold of her, and her chant is really beautiful, tempting. But my world is not her world, and her world is not mine.

There are so many worlds in this world, just as there are so many families in one family. I remember how, when I was studying communication in Romania, a long time ago, our professor Mihai Dinu pointed to the fact that brothers and sisters do not grow up in the same family. Of course, parents change through time, and the second child does not get the same parenting experience as the first. But there is one more aspect to it. My brothers live in a family in which I am one of the children. I do not live in that family. I do not need to deal with me as a brother. I deal with them, but not with me.

The world is similar: in my world, I do not need to deal with Tavi. I do not perceive his movements, and I do not need to avoid him when he is in my way. There is no moment in which I serve myself at a restaurant, no moment in which I am my own teacher in class, no moment in which I am my own husband or my own father. All the others, though, have worlds in which Tavi is a component. I am responsible for their worlds–they live life dealing with the noise that I have created in their worlds.


Still in flight, so back to my readings. De Anima now. I am going to a conference on Greek philosophy, and I am writing a paper on psyche in Aristotle. “Soul is the being-fully-itself of a natural body that has life potentially.” The lady next to me, the African from Ghana, is being-fully-human. She lives her human life in her particular way. She chants, pushes me with her elbows, moves her legs under the seat in front of me, and I have difficulties writing. I have to move my body so that my elbow does not hit her when I write, but this brings me too close to my other neighbor, too westerner to suffer physical proximity. I am slightly bothered by the situation, and I almost desire to push her back with my elbow, so that I can create some space for my writing. How terrible I must have become if I am bothered by the particular expression of being what I also am, a human! I, one manifestation in the world of being-fully-human, am bothered by another manifestation in the world of being fully human. I am bothered by me!

You may remember Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the one who has “the old unpleasant feeling of exasperated dislike of any person who violated, or even seemed desirous of disturbing his privacy.” I am bothered by the old African lady’s life. Am I not a potential Raskolnikov? Where are you, Sonya, to seize me by the shoulders, to yell at me, “Go at once, this instant, stand at the cross-roads, first bow down and kiss the earth you have desecrated, then bow to the whole world, to the four corners of the earth, and say aloud to all the world: ‘I have done murder.'”


I am coming back from the conference. Different plane, different people, different worlds. I have a whole row for myself! Two empty seats next to me! It really makes me happy. No other person: I can write, sleep, I can do whatever I want to do! But then I remember the old African lady, with her flowery dress, her chanting, and her old, wrinkled hands. They remind me of the hands of my mama-mare (grandmother). If she were next to me, I would kiss them, and I would thus kiss the earth that I have desecrated.


About Tavi's Corner

Blogging on ancient philosophy, communist persecution in Romania (including deportation to Siberia), and Orthodox Christianity. I've translated books from Romanian to English, and I also write about them from time to time.
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One Response to Thoughts in the air

  1. I also find flying very stimulating to philosophy!

    Liked by 1 person

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