Listening to Dave Brubeck’s supremely cool Time Out always makes me think of Otto Lilenthal/Leonardo Da Vinci style flying machines. The second track on the record is called ‘Strange Meadow Lark’ so a flock of flying machines might not be such a terribly disconnected image.
As a result of this, I found a great website called FlyingMachines.org which I heartily recommend checking out if you’re into Victoriana or science or eccentricity or just weird stuff.
I’m sure it’s quite unnatural for humans to fly: whenever I come off an airplane I find that my lips are unimaginably chapped and every muscle tired as though my body, when evolving, simply didn’t take into account that it might infrequently find itself being projected through the sky at a squillion miles per second in a metal tube.
But then, what does ‘natural’ mean? Everything ultimately is a product of nature. From shrinkwrapped lettuces to complex MP3 players, everything began in the Earth and was converted into a usable object via whatever form of alchemy neccessary. I suppose when people are looking for ‘natural’ products, they’re looking for goods with as little of this alchemical process invested in them as possible.
Why do we suppose Lilenthal et al and the Wright Brothers became so obsessed with flying machines? Why is it so important that humans compete with birds? Assuming that there is a psychological, evolutionary or cultural truth to be found buried within any one piece of technology (a plug socket, a pair of shoes, an alar[u]m clock, an iPod), what does the human fixation upon flight tell us?
I’d argue that it’s down to the innate/gradually cultivated desire to escape. Escape! Escape! Escape the humdrum and the benal, the dangerous and the ill-suited in favour of the green grass of some other side.
I think I could get an article out of this for The Escapologist perhaps also with a nod toward the Bird Men of Easter Island. Trouble is, I already have two items plus an editorial in this magazine and I don’t want it to be too Wringham-heavy so if anyone else is interested enough in this area of speculation, I’d be very willing to let them/you take a crack at it.