Looking out of the plane

Flying is a strange experience and when I was working internationally, I flew more in the last 4 years than I had in my entire life.

There are parts of the experience I like. I usually like the packing side, the excitement of going somewhere different and I even like sitting with a coffee in the departure lounge as I can usually relax with a book or some music, I also like watching movies on the plane.

There are parts of the experience I thoroughly dislike. The long process of getting through security, endless queueing, lack of leg room, and the way my ears suffer from the air pressure when the plane is descending. One of the most excruciating things I have ever been through was an hour long descent whilst a poor baby cries relentlessly.

One of the more profound experiences I have is when I am looking out the window. Besides the amazing aerial views on offer, I sometimes will see a town or a city and all of a sudden, I see more than buildings.

I see people, cars along the roads and then start wondering about all the lives being lived. What people are doing with their time, what are they going through, what are their dreams or desires and in what way are they suffering?

The word for this experience is ‘sonder’. For some reason, when I am flying, I get a more concrete understanding of the fact that every life is as vivid and as complex as our own.

When we adopt this view, it becomes easier to employ empathy and whilst it may be a particularly visceral experience for me when I am on the plane, I will try to keep it in mind when I am on the ground.

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