If you haven’t had a chance to read my most recent novel, In Flight, you can get it here. There’s a brief scene in which our hero, Robert Besch, who survived a plane crash, fails to adequately explain his new outlook on life to his colleague, Dennis. But Dennis, who’s had his own near-death experience, thinks he understands what Robert might be going through and why things aren’t different for him now:
Dennis said he understood. He’s been there too with his own near-fatal experience. You think your plane is going down and it’s all over for you, and in the few seconds you have remaining, you measure your entire life and discover your grade isn’t so good—maybe it’s a failing grade or at best an incomplete you’ll never get a chance to finish. You can’t help it: all the lost opportunity, the wasted time. You think if you could just get off the hook here and survive this catastrophe, you swear to completely overhaul your life. The first thing men say is they’re going to achieve a better work-life balance. Is that what you’re thinking Robert? It is, isn’t it? You’ve got quality-of-life issues. You’ve got family to pay attention to. You’ve got roses to smell. Or you’re going to find God. You’re going to love all humanity. You’ll do no wrong. You’ll apply the golden rule. You won’t let anyone lose their job on your watch. You’ll fight for the people. You promise to do all that shit if you can just get through this moment and out the other side. And then, miraculously, you survive; your plane lands safely—or crash-lands in your case. The point is you survive when you expected to die. But the world hasn’t changed a bit. The world is indifferent to your fate, Robert. Nothing has changed, except you’ve changed. But not really. Deep down you’re still the same ambitious, driven man who’s never fully satisfied, and that’s what keeps you striving. And the people around you haven’t changed either. You’re still married to the same person. You live in the same house. You have the same joys and sorrows. But now you’ve gone and made these promises to yourself, and those promises are haunting you because you can’t live your life according to a plan you formulated in the few seconds before you’re about to die. A plan like that is never sustainable. A plan like that isn’t based on goals and logic but desperate hope and prayer.