Point of no return. This phrase comes from aviation. It’s the point in a flight when there is no longer sufficient fuel for a plane to return to its starting point. Landing must now occur somewhere else.
This concept has been coming up a lot for me lately, largely in response to a number of deaths or anniversaries of deaths. While someone is alive, even if they are clearly in the process of dying, there still exists the possibility that they will remain alive. And then, in a blink of an eye, the point of no return is passed and they are no longer alive. We discover this retrospectively. The last breath or heartbeat is identified by something that did not happen.
Prior to this point, so much exists as potential; life may continue, the flight may go here or there, I can jump or not jump, the words can be said or not. Potential and possibility. So very important in providing a sense of choice or ability to tolerate a circumstance. If I truly believe I am free to leave at any time, I am likely to stay longer than someone who does not believe they are free to leave.
At some level, we understand this intuitively, that circumstances can change in an instant, and once changed cannot be unchanged. I suspect this awareness is part of many individual’s existential terror, that gut sense that it can all end at any moment. True, and it also may not. Living with the knowledge of the precarious nature of existence, the challenge to me is how to allow this to add to the savor of life, increasing thrill rather than fear. Not unlike a roller coaster, where one is going up until that critical point is reached, and after that blink of suspension, one is careening down and around, riding out the pre-ordained journey.
No turning back.