Comfortably Numb

Have you ever experienced a moment in life when scene and song came together in perfect harmony?

This afternoon as we were descending into Long Beach, the sky was clear blue with a golden horizon. The sun would be setting in about half an hour, and we were on our final approach.

I was once again enjoying some XM radio, and was able to catch the very start of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” as we made our way over the hills and across Orange County. An interesting, ethereal song on its own, the aspect of being detached from reality was paralyzing as all air turbulence left us and we glided like a feather during the song’s first few words, “Hello, is there anybody in there?”

The turbulence continued to be absent, and I was looking out over the ocean and the marshlands. The song’s rhythmic, gently descending eigth notes, bundled in fours, created a trance-like state during the, “There is no pain, you are receding” portion of the lyrics.

I stared out the window some more. The plane was quiet. Engine noise was barely audible. Nobody was talking. Everyone was just looking — outside, at the landscape, at the ocean, at the landmarks. Maybe it was the beauty of the day. Or maybe they were listening to the same song.

And then it happened. Gilmour’s magical guitar just after the two-minute mark began and, as it did, the plane banked majestically to the right to line up with the runway. As it did, everyone along the left-hand side of the aircraft was blinded by the setting sun as it seemed mere feet from our windows. Scene and song together created what felt like a slow-motion epiphany.

If you don’t know the song, this is the time when you need to listen to it. Personal, decades-long crush on Gilmour aside, you can’t tell me the sounds he’s able to bring out of his guitar don’t evoke feelings of weightlessness and soaring.

Just like what we were doing.

Gilmour has described the song as having distinctly “dark” and “light” sections, which you can hear when you listen all the way through. Sections of minor chords and harmonies merge into major, uplifting measures. As we approached the runway, it was odd how many of those “dark” bars lined up with scenes from the ground below that fit perfectly: flying through the steam given off by an austere, cold power plant, industrial corporate parks with little foliage or greenery surrounding them. Then the “light” parts of the song would line up with the afternoon light shimmering on the marsh water and ocean.

Approaching the five-minute mark of the song, the tension is building and we’re a few hundred feet off the runway. Not surprisingly, the intricate solo at the end was also in alignment with everything needed for a perfect landing.

Truly, no better song for a gorgeous descent into Long Beach on such a picturesque day.

Tonight I am thankful for the cinematic wonder that this song and the images just before landing created in my head. They say inspiration comes from many places, and this was today’s. Just for me.

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