Monday, November 23, 2009

theories on the Last Flight of Earhart

One has Amelia going down at sea. Another overshooting Howland Island and landing at Nikimaroro, three hundred and fifty miles away, then starving to death. A third crashing and dying in New Guinea. A fourth, captured by the Japanese. In this scenario Amelia is either repatriated, executed or falling sick and dying; choose one. People want an ending. They want resolution. They don't want a mystery, they want to understand what death is. Why it happens. They want endings, even as they struggle against them. Why else do we call it battling cancer? My father did. And right up to the end, he was bemused. "I don't understand where this came from?" Like death had snuck up on him when he wasn't looking out for it. Like he could have prevented it in some way.

There are plenty of families who don't know the ending, their children disappearing, their loved ones vanished, there are conflicts burning the world over. We want to know. We need to know. When we don't it aches. So Amelia is a symbol of all that we can't control. She's our grief writ large. And even though I begin the novel with the news her remains have been found, I don't want that to happen. I want this mystery to endure. I know that her family probably wanted closure at the time. As a parent, I think I would too. The grief would be too much to bear and so it would be the most I could hope for, other than a miraculous resurrection. But if I couldn't have that, if I couldn't put an answer the question then I'd hope for the gift of not knowing. It's the gateway to every theory. Because human imagination is capable of great things. And one of them is this, each theory a different ending. Each ending, the beginning of a different story, each story ours to remake, each revision giving life to someone's fertile imagination. . . so that she continues to inspire, continues to offer us insight into how we can break away, how each one of us can learn to fly. . .

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