I came to NES to complete a draft of my book, The Principle of the Fragility of Good Things, an investigation into my obsession with plane crashes following an engine explosion and subsequent emergency landing. That obsession led me to the most comprehensive “fear of flying” clinic in the world, to a series of large-scale air disaster drills in which I participated as a “professional survivor,” and ultimately to the National Transportation Safety Board’s training center, where I trained to investigate Survival Factors in Aviation Accidents, and where at long last I beheld the reconstructed fuselage of TWA Flight 800, the Paris-bound 747 that exploded after takeoff over Long Island Sound in 1996.

The mysteries surrounding that disaster (the FBI believed the plane was sabotaged; the chief metallurgist believed the cause was mechanical; eyewitnesses saw a “ball of light” hit the plane) make it the centerpiece–and the ostensible subject–of my obsession. After spending the past three months in Iceland, I am nearing the completion of a long leg of a journey that has asked me to accept a world that is neither scientifically ordered (as my mathematical side tells me), nor cosmically chaotic (as my new-age mantras tell me) but sublime in its random logic.