Subjected to the weight of the body, man can feel no greater longing than when he sees the migration of birds in the sky setting out for unreachable distances. Air travel to distant countries and cultures is now a large and competitive market.
We like to call the moment of greatest motivation and inspiration “inspired”.
Even in our dreams this primeval human longing for freedom can be found. Who hasn’t dreamt of flying?
Flying stands for weightlessness, lightness and freedom.
It serves all the longings that we humans have in our everyday lives. Flying overcomes heaviness, load and lack of freedom. It is no wonder, therefore, that men tried early on to conquer heaven and to do the same as their feathered contemporaries.
The great freedom is up!
Man wanted and wants to be free. People’s longing for freedom is omnipresent and can be found thematically in many philosophies and religions. Flying symbolizes freedom – the ability to take off, to escape the present place and to see the world from above – as a whole.
The dream of flying is spaceless and timeless.
The fantasy of overcoming heaviness and doing the same as birds – to take off is a “primal wish” of mankind. Even prehistoric drawings and ancient myths bear witness to this desire, as do countless religious legends.
He who flies rules!
He who looks down on the world from above overlooks it. Everything that’s down there gets very small. This is why gods and rulers like to be placed in heaven. From Egypt come about 4000 year old texts from the pyramids, which Pharaohs as herons, cranes, falcons or god kings let float above the clouds. The oldest known representation of a flight dates from about 2300 BC from Mesopotamia. In Greek mythology, Icarus escapes captivity with the wings that his father Daedalus built for him.
So far from heaven.
The first flight attempt took place already around 1000 before Christ in China. There a kite made of bamboo and silk was invented, which was later used for distance measurement. In Europe a mechanical dove made of wood, which the Greek mathematician of Taranto is said to have built, could have been the first flying machine and 2500 years after the Chinese kite flight the European inventor and constructor Leonardo da Vinci tried to decipher the secret of the sky.
The Renaissance genius asked himself: Why can birds rise into the air and we humans cannot?
On paper, he designed gliders, parachutes, helicopters made of reeds, wood and lines, and thought of various forms of swinging. For him, for whom the most important instrument of knowledge were his eyes, air was an object, a solid body.
The outer boundaries of an object are by no means part of the object itself. In the end, each object is already the beginning of another. (Leonardo da Vinci)
The fascination of flying drove him to many technical utopias. He understood the bird as a device that functioned according to natural laws. So he studied the flight of the bird and examined the currents of the air. He understood the air as an object that must be pushed away in order to fly or whose resistance could be used. He thought about a flight propeller that turns at such a high speed that it bores into the air and thus rises into the air. What da Vinci writes about the resistance of the air will later be called aerodynamics. Nevertheless, no flight attempt of Leonardo is documented, no model of him is available. But half a millennium after the theoretical invention, Judy Leden successfully tested one of da Vinci’s flight designs.
A new age leads into heaven and abyss at the same time.
In November 1783, the Montgolfier brothers launch a hot balloon with passengers and overcome the heaviness of the people. Although this happened against the background of the French Enlightenment and science as well as reason was considered the measure of all things, the mixture for the gas of the brothers proves how close flying belonged to the realm of mysticism. The Montgolfier gas was made from damp straw, chopped sheep’s wool, old shoes and half-rotten animal carcasses.
With the two Montgolfier brothers, the era of airships began and with it the war of the people for the technology associated with them. Instead of cooperating, they fought for supremacy in the sky – even in the days of the Montgolfier brothers themselves. Time and again, technology has been used to take advantage of other people instead of using it for the benefit of all. Not only that – the wars of mankind have even become regular drivers of innovation. Many innovations have been developed within the military.
As early as 1793, the balloon was used for warfare – as a captive balloon for reconnaissance of the French army against Austrian invasion troops. Only a few years later – in 1849 – the first explosives from balloons hit Venice. The technology was continuously developed further until 1900, when a new type of particularly stable 128-meter-long airship appeared on the stage of the skies: the long textile hull with an aluminum frame, designed by Graf Zeppelin and equipped with two 15 hp gasoline engines. It heralds the first time that aviation is suitable for the masses. Until the beginning of the First World War, seven airships carried 34 028 people.
The merchant Étienne Montgolfier was a utopian.
With his invention, he wanted to bring benefits to people and make the technology usable for trade through the air. After the military used his invention only a few years later in war, he turned away disappointed from further development projects. In his eyes people were not mature enough for this technique. All aerial wars confirm his assumption.
People have to overcome not only the limits of technology, but themselves.
They made it, the humans – they can fly. A lot has happened in the meantime. Man has entered the jet age, has even set off into nothingness – into space – and is working on new technologies to overcome the scarcity of resources and continue to make flying possible. There are drones, SmartBird and electric-powered aircraft. Even flight taxis for cities are being discussed.
But I ask myself, when do we humans realize that heaven and freedom are located in each of us? That we will never reach heaven and will not be free unless we find it in ourselves and with our contemporaries?
When will we understand that we are only in heaven and free when we use technology for the benefit and welfare of all?
Against the backdrop of the emerging age of artificial intelligence, this question is more burning than ever before, I think.