Tonight I listened to a very old “This American Life” podcast that had a superpower theme. One of the acts was about the age-old party question: would you rather have the power to fly or the power to be invisible? The reporter had answered some of the follow-up questions to that question; you could fly within the atmosphere at the fastest 1,000 mph; your clothes would also go invisible but anything you picked up would remain visible. The practical things people wonder after that question.
Well, some people. But not me. I don’t care about the parameters, because I have never, ever felt even the slightest moment’s hesitation about that question. I want to fucking fly, man. And this particular story, they went on to have some of the people the reporter polled sharing their thoughts about what these choices might say about people. It seemed to be agreed that, at the very least, people who wanted to fly thought of themselves as heroic, or had guile, or were just kidding themselves. One woman said that anyone who wanted to fly, in their heart of hearts, when really forced to choose, would choose to be invisible. Or else they were overly-courageous folk who thought better of themselves than was healthy. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the point. More diplomatic commentators said that people who chose invisibility were probably afraid of something, or wished they could be invisible at times, and people who wanted flight were into attention and wanted more of it if possible. More women chose invisibility (sad); more men chose flight (predictable).
And the thing I kept thinking was, “I don’t want to fly because I think I’m amazing or I think I could change the world with it, I want to fly because I remember flying, and I want to ‘swim’ in the air.” And it’s really that simple for me: I want to fly because I want to mimic birds, because I think it’s a great way to get from place to place, and because I vividly “remember” flying during my childhood. Ok, as I’ve grown, I’ve had to admit that those “memories” were likely dreams — ok, definitely dreams — but I still recall those times and they were amazing. And I wasn’t going 1,000 mph, like this gentleman said we could — that actually scares me — it was more like gentle gliding. It was much more bird-like.
So I’d choose flying. It’s not because I have a superwoman complex, not because I want to save the world. Yes, I admit that I rather like attention, but I was actually brainstorming ways I could fly and avoid attention, like what route I’d take to work tomorrow morning at 5:15 a.m., so perhaps that’s not entirely off-base but nor is it the point.
Which would you choose? Flight or invisibility? And what do you think it says about you?