This piece is an attempt to reconcile my crowded emotions and observations from that day in the Center. Witnessing dozens of jaw-dropping engineering marvels was an entire day of great, unbridled fun. Less fun, though thoroughly educational, was gradually understanding the tight-knit braid of military, aeronautic, and my own personal trajectories.

Enjoying myself felt a bit like tacit endorsement of whatever ghastly accomplishments the hundreds of artifacts on display boasted. Also troubling was the vaguely guilty nagging I had to nurse every time I passed a warplane manufactured by my mother country, of which many had evidently been claimed by the American government as interesting spoils. The moralistic pincer was definitely distracting. Overall, what most soothed me among the relentless tide of distressing factoids was repeating to myself that the past cannot be changed. Meditation on unalterable states helps to orient my thoughts and impulses in a more spiritually constructive direction, sort of like distracting my overactive conscience with a Rubik’s cube. What the poor thing doesn't know is that I've swapped two of the stickers.

An easy way to maintain this inner exercise, I have found, is to imagine all of overarching history as a giant body of liquid. With this framework, historical engagement takes on the impression of accessing a resource rather than lending an ear to moaning ghosts of air raids past. The metaphorical pool also allows a host of other helpful concepts: The medium touches everything simultaneously, giving all objects one common aspect via itself. Everything underwater is always equally “steeped” - no fish is ever more or less wet than any other. Further, one fish asking another "What the hell is water?" reveals the functional invisibility of a medium while under its constant envelopment. To put this back into literal terms, it implies that history affects all things at all times concurrently, unbiasedly, and inconspicuously.

Two further watery associations I explore in the piece above are that of refraction and rippling.

History modifies how we perceive. Mundane objects or places become highly venerated for no reason other than a dusty lexical reference or inherited provenance. Likewise, antagonistic fervor or loathsome enemies can be conjured out of thin air by appealing to history. A levelheaded retrospective must constantly account for these distortions or risk sinking blindly into ruin. The flip side is that the deformation can be positive: seemingly pointless or wasteful undertakings often bear the proud mantle of tradition. Heritage only makes sense when you understand justification for an exercise as extending beyond the superficial.

Ripples are how I choose to describe the reverberation of our actions through time. Continuing the metaphor, my physical body is immersed similar to all other objects, but my immaterial mind is free to float unimpeded and breach the surface, like a bubble. I imagine my out-of-body self observing the surface of this reservoir, "studying history" as it were, from the soggy banks. It is from here, I believe, that we can reach out to interact with antiquity. Some make a larger splash than others, but whether by ICBM launch or butterfly wing, all action activates a series of historical consequences. Since history is only present within the collective human psyche, it stands that it can only be affected by the similarly psychic force of Intent. Forethought allows more accurate control over when and how these ripples travel beyond your initial trigger, resulting in what is succinctly called a legacy.

Abstraction this complex is what it takes to tranquilize my brain into not caring about a machine’s intended purpose. Taking a breath from my own unnecessary moral toil oxygenates fonder memories of the day. I remember how my feet carried me to the Space Shuttle Discovery resting peacefully in the backmost area and being dumbstruck by the enormity of both the rocket thrusters and collective human determination. I remember the cheeseburgers eaten afterwards, munching my meat patty.

Seated among mental waterside reeds, I take a renewed look at the giant useless lake. Perhaps my frustration is based in a desire to modify what I perceive as misshapen. My historical rumination often defaults to what I individually would have done differently, or how I personally believe justice should be doled out as a result. Fixating on the inability to knead history to my whims obviously generates nothing but irritation. Turns out throttling a body of water is exhausting and stupid. Shame that you cannot reconstruct what is fundamentally amorphous. While I chew on this lamentable food for thought, millions of airplanes continue to crash, as they always have, down upon the mirror surface, sending great splashes of causality every which way. Things rarely change, especially not history. The ripples coming my way are somebody else’s business, and I think my own mission is to learn to read between concentric lines. I swallow a well chewed idea, and lower a cupped hand to wash it all down.

the poem is designed to be read from beginning to end back to beginning again in circles, like a propeller
aerial superiority