The Ultimate Question

I usually listen to podcasts on my way to and from work. It affords me a nice balance between wanting to learn and be entertained while on public transit, and the desire to not end up even more blind than I am now by reading on the bus.

Eventually I’ll make a post recommending all of the great podcasts I’ve discovered, but for the moment all we need to know is that one of the first I started listening to is This American Life.

About a year ago, I was listening to an episode they had about one of a great question to ask if you want to start a conversation: Would you rather have the power of flight or invisibility?

It turns out people feel very strongly about the question. I thought that was a bit silly, but when I asked it to a group of people a few months ago, people really were very opinionated about the issue, and took the time to defend their viewpoint. I was surprised at how strongly I argued myself, as I debated with probably with the most fervour of all.

The question is:

Would you rather have the power of flight, or to become invisible at will?

Before continuing, please think about the question yourself.

Which of the two superpowers would you rather have?

Why did you pick that two? Why not the other one? What sort of thing do you think each choice might say about someone? What do you think your choice says about you?

I’d love to hear your answer in the comments below after you’re done reading the post.

For my part, I chose invisibility. My reasoning was that the power of flight was very noticeable, and living in the world we do, with one million cameras, it wouldn’t take too long for my identity to be found out by the government if I was lucky (or by a more questionable group if I wasn’t) and then kidnapped for experimentation and questioning.

Plus, there’s the whole thing where you could easily get tangled in electric wiring by accident, as well as having to fly low to avoid freezing, and slowly so you don’t get killed by a bird flying in front of you out of nowhere.

How boring is that? The only way to use the power without putting your life at risk is by barely using it at all. What fun is being able to fly if you’re not free to go where you want and do what you like?

Invisibility, on the other hand, is by definition difficult to notice. It wouldn’t take too much work to disappear and reappear without others noticing, and the possibilities it has are endless. This means you can enjoy it without anywhere near the same risk you have from flight.

You could sneak into an airport and get free rides anywhere in the world, and if you have dubious morals like myself, not have to worry about money or food (you can Robin Hood resources, if your conscience objects to just taking a bit here and there.)

Think about it! Carte blanche to travel. You could go anywhere, do anything. The holiest of holies, the most secretive of places. Heck, you could probably get rich from finding the treasure that the clues on the back of the Declaration of Independence lead you to.

You could stay overnight at the library, explore forbidden mountains, play endless little tricks on people.

It would be so much fun!

I’m a drama queen. If you need proof of that, speak to anyone who was friends with me as a teenager.

No, I’m not joking. I was horrible. I always feel like cringing and hiding my face in shame when I think back to it.

I also love public speaking. You might be surprised considering how shy I am when meeting strangers in unfamiliar settings, but if I have to people them from a podium rather than talk with them in a regular way, I tend to enjoy myself a ton, without any timidity or self-consciousness.

So, I love attention. I don’t encourage that part of me too much because it can get ugly fast, but I indulge it every now and then, as it can be handy. Take this blog, for example. I write three days a week working from the assumption that other people want to spend their time reading my outlook on the world, and listening to the things I want to say.

Sure, it’s occasionally true, but you’ve either got to be a clearly talented writer or simply love the figurative sound of your own voice to assume that. (Guess which one fits me best.)

I mention all this because all of those things I assume would make someone more likely to choose flight. Simplistically, someone could look at the question as simply “who wants to stand out, and who wants to disappear?”

I think the difference there is the choice involved. It’s similar to the way I am with being transgender. I’ve written post after post after post on this blog about my experiences and perspective as a trans woman. I don’t mind it, I’m not ashamed of it. I quite like talking about it, as is evidenced by the angry frustration I feel when any of my friends gets uncomfortable anytime I remotely refer to it.

However, I cannot stand people on the street staring at me, and I feel sick just thinking of people talking about me behind my back.

Do you see the difference?

In the former example, I’m in control. I decide how and when I talk about my identity, but in the latter someone else frames the conversation and uses it to judge me in whichever way they want to.

What is it all supposed to mean, though?

According to someone on the podcast, people who choose invisibility supposedly feel shame, and those who choose flight are very confident people.

I hate that. It’s incredibly simplistic, even if it’s in answer to such a silly question. Plus, I don’t like how judgemental it is towards the choice I went for.

What does my answer actually say about me?

Firstly, I take these silly hypothetical questions too seriously.

Secondly, my biggest dream right now seems to be travelling through the world. It’s not something I normally daydream about, but thinking about it now, it makes sense. If I got to make anything come true with a wish, travelling the world would likely be my first trans unrelated wish.

Huh. I guess the question is somewhat insightful.

How about you guys? Please let me know which one you chose and why. Do you have any odd questions you ask people when you’re getting to know them? Is there a question you liked being asked?

I once met a guy who went around at a party asking couples which of the two loved the other more. I thought it was a really rude question, but everyone seemed to love it. Isn’t that crazy?


4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Question

  1. Jen says:

    My initial thought was flight, because I’m rather lazy and would rather fly than walk anywhere. But you’re right, without indestructibility, flight is rather useless. I hadn’t thought of using invisibility to travel. That’s really smart, and I would probably do the same thing.
    I like being asked “what superpower would you most like to have”, because I would want the ability to heal others. Not because I’m selfless, but because then I could spend more time with my family and friends who get sick. Take my grandfather, for example. He’s not doing too well. I could heal him, and he’d get to spend a lot more time with me. (Yes, of course I’d help out others, especially children. But my main goal is to heal my family.)


  2. notathoughtgiven says:

    I would take the superpower I don’t have and that is flight. I am already invisible. No one really notices me unless I do something to make them notice me. I am just another human being walking around a planet full of them.

    The question with flight is how do I achieve it? Do I need to flap my wings all the time? That would get tiring. Might need some feathers to stay warm also as the air is colder. Which might be nice during the summer but not so much in the winter. I guess I could migrate with the other birds if that was the case.


  3. Helen Smith says:

    Once had a chat like this with some of my physicist friends… Thinking about having the power of flight was not quite the same after discussing the practicalities of how big your muscles and heart would need to be to power a wingspan big enough for a human… πŸ˜›
    But assuming it’s a ‘magic’ power of flight that allows me to stay physically as I am, I think it’d be cool! I guess it’d be like having a broomstick without the broom. You’d be able to get a different perspective on the world. And fly over the road without waiting for the cars to get out the way. πŸ˜›


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