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July 18, 2012

This plane can fly

I once sat on an airplane next to a jittery fellow who’d never flown before. He was clearly terrified and ordered two of those tiny airplane bottles of vodka while sheepishly confessing that he expected us all to die in a fiery crash.

I assured him that everyone else on the plane expected a safe flight and that everyone on board must believe the plane would land safely or we would all surely perish. The only thing keeping us aloft, I explained, was our universal belief that we would stay aloft. If even one person doubted it, the plane would plummet from the sky.

He glanced around and saw a bunch of happy travelers: business people, vacationers, snowbirds. Nobody seemed concerned. He thought about what I’d said, smiled briefly, then curled up in the fetal position and began chugging vodka. So, clearly I wasn’t much help, and if you are reading this on a plane, try the vodka. It’s expensive, but if you put it on your credit card and then die in a crash, you won’t have to pay.

My point is that the economy is like flying. So long as everyone believes that images of vapid platitudes in ugly fonts are deeply profound, Facebook stock is worth $38 per share. But if even one person doubts it, the stock market will plunge and misery will break out, especially in the non-wealthy community. And because the economy is now worldwide, an errant tweet in Egypt can tramp-stamp a butterfly onto the lower back of a reality-TV heroine before a dubstep star has a chance to make us bleed from our ears.

Which brings me to music. Everyone agrees that music is awesome. But I once spent an afternoon believing that silence was golden, and the result was a nasty earworm involving Bobby and Sissy from “The Lawrence Welk Show” tap dancing to “Frosty the Snowman.” The only way I could get relief was to close my eyes and sing “Alison” by Elvis Costello, which is guaranteed to remove any earworm (but only if you sing all the way to the line I heard you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress). That experience convinced me that silence, like the economy, is a house of cards.

Many believe the remedy for this terrible affliction is medical marijuana, which Kentucky Sen. Perry Clark wants to legalize. If his legislation passes, Kentucky will become the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana, which is widely prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of cancer, MS, Alzheimer’s, migraines, PMS and, when consumed in massive amounts, can reportedly make Daniel Tosh funny.

Opponents argue that the obesity epidemic is bad enough without legalizing the munchies, and some feel we should not alter our consciousness ever, despite the widespread, recreational use of legal mind-altering substances like alcohol, caffeine, prescription drugs, salt, roller coasters, corn syrup, Wes Anderson movies, Sriracha, nicotine gum, hot yoga, sexual intercourse, driving on the Watterson Expressway, “Criminal Minds,” the fine products of Apple, casino gambling, Fox News, and spinning around in circles really fast.

Will medical marijuana become legal in Kentucky? It’s a longshot, but anything is possible now that CERN physicists have found the “God particle.” At the rate they are going, they will eventually find all of God’s particles, put him back together again, and maybe he can finally explain why some drugs are legal and others aren’t. Also: Maybe he’ll know what’s up with the weird weather we’ve been having, how to fix the economy, and what a “boson” is. But until that day comes, we are on our own, which, like air travel, socialism and homosexuality, gets less terrifying the more you think about it.

So, in summary, you must believe this plane can fly. You must believe that our children will find jobs and bail us out of the laboratory-food-and-Internet-based economy before partial hydrogenation and residual growth hormones makes us all too unspeakably large for our photos to fit on Facebook. You must believe the drones aren’t coming after you. And you must believe that legal weed will be a net job creator no matter what your dealer says. But mostly, you must believe that “Alison” can get any earworm out of your head. Because if we all believe this plane can fly, this plane can fly. Unless, you know, it can’t.