19 October 2012 | Patterns

I don't fly that often, but when I do, I prefer the window seat because I don't think I'll ever tire of the view. On my last flight out of Arizona to California, I just marveled at how the desert landscape can look so alien, almost like high resolution images I've seen of Mars. You see these old, dried up gullies and other channels extending their tendrils god knows now many miles across the floor of the desert. It's just amazing.

But even more so, I happened to catch a large residential neighborhood, whose circular design almost looked like it was a mosaic. It was actually beautiful, to be honest. You can only appreciate that from the air, because you'll never see the pattern on the ground. Only the builders of that neighborhood would know what it was supposed to look like from a bird's eye view, just like how you can only appreciate how much a city landscape resembles a computer circuit board.

And then I thought of the famous Nazca lines, those awesome and barely unchanged designs seemingly traced into the Peruvian desert. The almost total lack of precipitation there almost has guaranteed the line's immortality. The builders have long gone, taking their secrets of why and how with them. But that hasn't stopped scores of people from insisting, of course, that the lines are patterns designed to be seen only from the air, so therefore extraterrestrials must be involved since they clearly used the lines as a landing strip.


I suppose my point is that there really isn't that much of a mystery here in terms of how a man made creation looks from a perspective that almost everyone won't see. I'd venture to guess that everyone living in that neighborhood I saw from 20,000 feet has no idea how gorgeous their domicile looks from the air. Like I said, the builders know, and it seems safe to reason that those who built the Nazca lines also knew what their designs were going to look like from above, even if most people couldn't appreciate it, or maybe even care. It would like claiming that the design of that neighborhood has to contain some special meaning since the pattern is only obvious from the sky. But no one is claiming it's a signal for aliens to land here.

Sometimes I wonder why things can't be just beautiful and mysterious without invoking either aliens or the supernatural to explain things.