I attended PS 133 at the eastern edge of Queens in NYC. Most days I walked the eighteen blocks to school. Two more blocks away and I would have qualified to ride the school bus. When it rained I wore one of those heavy rubber yellow rain coats. It allowed the water to seep in not only around my neck and down my back but it also soaked my pants starting just below my knees. The rubber suit was so hot the rest of me got wet from the heat of perspiration. When it snowed I wore rubber goulashes over my shoes that let the snow leak in, soaking my feet as my toes slowly froze. It was particularly on those days that I imagined riding high and dry on my magic flying carpet. That trip would be instantaneous; with no rain, no snow and no seat belt needed.
I do not recall the exact date but certainly before I was five I must have heard the story of Aladdin and his Magic Flying Carpet. This began a theme within me of soaring high in the sky with wonder and adventure. Although this was a simple story it had a major impact upon me. As I had a vivid imagination it was easy for reality and fantasy to be braided together. For me the carpet was a tangible object albeit a flying “magic” carpet. Where as Superman received his flying powers having been born on another planet. And Peter Pan got to fly with Pixie dust from Tinker Bell. Obviously to me at five both Superman and Peter Pan were extremely entertaining and heroes of mine, but they were not real. With the carpet there was something more exotic, more natural.
Perhaps because it was from a far away land, right here on the earth or possibly because there was so little story about it, although much more mystery. In one description the carpet was a thin simple cloth with interesting knots on the bottom. In another its power came from a special dye. Although very little history of it can be found there was just enough for me. The door of wonder was left wide open.
I did not have a famous imaginary 6 foot 3 and a half inch rabbit playmate named Harvey but I did have several fantasy characters that became reified into my pillow; that I could battle with and at times conquer. Childhood make-believe and games with others or alone was an easy mind space for me to slip in and out of. The mystery of the flying carpet was a connection to the wonder of my five year old mind as I grew through adolescence and into my twenties. I can still remember the feeling of connection and immersion into the made up fantasy world of play. This was as “realistic” to me then as losing awareness of myself is now when I am deeply in touch with the characters in a large-screen movie.
In time as I was growing up the society pulled the flying carpet out from under my feet and I learned and practiced how to sit still, settle down and for hours a day do what my teachers told me to do. Although I had held tightly to the carpet it fell away like a favorite toy dropping out of my hands as I drifted off to sleep still trying to hold on. The carpet that was yanked out was not totally lost but tethered by a thin thread with the deep wonder and mystery of the story of Aladdin and the Magic of the Flying Carpet.
Being educated in mathematics, science and biology when acupuncture came out I was at first a skeptic. How could unseen channels in the body, block or modify pain that traveled along tangible nerves? As acupuncture became more popular so did my interest in yoga and Eastern thought. My memories of flying carpets swayed my interest toward levitation and cobras dancing to exotic flute music. I recalled a quote attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward; for there you have been, and there you will long to return.” He wrote that in the fifteenth century, 500 years before airplanes and rockets. What did Da Vinci know? What did he dream about? Was his wonder and imagination of childhood also kept alive by this thread of a magic flying carpet?
For me the world of wonder, was kept alive through a link to this story. At 10 I was on my first airplane flight. Of course I got the window seat. It was a two engine TWA flight with the entry/exit door at the rear bottom of the plane. During that flight I got to go up into the cockpit and listen through the captain’s earphones. No, I did not ask him if he ever saw a flying carpet; but he did give me a pair of TWA wings.
Flying became magical and in every flight since then when I look down at the ground from thousands of feet up I close my eyes and for a moment or two slide back into the fantasy of wonder.
The lingering mystery of this story has been a foundation for other doorways I have found that reconnect me into wonder through sunsets, mountain tops and ocean voyages.
This theme of flying carpets has not been lost, it lives on, only modernized. Just ask Captain James T. Kirk the next time you here him say, “Beam me up Scotty.”