There's something delightful about the delicate dance of risk vs. art as a performer pushes their own limits to work with the fire as a partner, even though the slightest moment of inattention or distraction could lead to serious injury.
I was thinking about fire performers as I boarded a tiny commuter jet at my home airport in Portland, Maine. I was heading out of town to teach in Columbus, Ohio this weekend and then down to Washington DC the next.
Like fire performance, air travel is a carefully orchestrated dance of physics, technology, and a little bit of faith.
Airplanes have always fascinated me, and I've taken the time, in my own layman's way, to learn about the science and technology that makes air travel possible. I've even done marathons of National Geographic's series "Air Crash Investigations" to understand why planes crash and what's been done to make them safer on both technological and human factor fronts.
All that said, while I may love planes, I hate air travel. Being someone with Tourette Syndrome only adds to the stress and anxiety built into the modern air travel system by default.
The last time I flew I was denied boarding of my plane, subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment by airline employees, whose response to my tics was to literally talk to me as if I was actually a dog. I was then required to divulge private information, such as what medications I take, before the airline reversed its decision and allowed me on board.
All that is on top of the usual travelers' complaints of cramped seats, bad air, and having to go through ridiculous security theater just to get to the gate.
Even so, just as it's hard not to feel a sense of wonder watching someone work and play with fire, that moment when an aircraft's wheels break contact with the ground never fails to instill a sense of wonder in me.