There comes a point in one’s life where one surrenders to the lure of the practical, rather than the romantic. Bit by bit, the arguments for whimsical and aesthetic considerations make way for the fact that it is generally better to simply have one’s affairs in order. I suppose this is part of what maturity means – the extension of one’s planning horizon, so that the present value of sensible choices outweigh the desire to do things merely for the je ne sais quois of seeing something new.
For those of us of a mostly sensible bent, the appeal of solid, practical decisions doesn’t need much extra boosting. But even among such as I, there is still romance, in the broad sense. It just shows up in unexpected places.
While I don’t know exactly when this shift towards sensibility occurred (or even if it had a particular turning point), I do know one of the marks of its arrival.
The clearest indicator, at least to me, is the choice of which seat to choose on the aeroplane.
At some point, the desire to be able to easily get to and from the bathroom becomes the thing one values in this microcosm of life’s choices. Stepping over people is a pain, not being able to pee when one wants to is a pain, waking up people who fell asleep at inopportune times is definitely a pain, especially for the introverted. Life is just easier when you don’t have to worry about these things.
And yet, sometimes an overbooked flight forces you into a window seat, and you remember when you used to pick the window to watch the world beneath. You gaze out into the silvery moonlight, with wisps of clouds floating below you. Tiny patches of criss-crossing light mark the small towns far distant, defying the sea of darkness. The steady glow appear as lichen, growing in odd patterns along the grooves of a rock in an otherwise barren desert.
How many generations of your ancestors lived and died without seeing a sight so glorious?
How many would trade this for slightly more convenient bathroom access?
It is worth noting that this tradeoff does not need to be explained to small children. They instinctively get what’s amazing about watching the world below at takeoff and landing.
Particularly for those of us whose affairs are mostly in order, it is worth being occasionally reminded of the lesson.