My visit to the memorial to the H-53 crash (June 19, 1992) behind the gazebo in Great Neck Park on July 4th sent me into one of my logbooks. Ken Steen, one of the seven crewman killed in the crash, had been a friend and student of mine. I visit the site periodically. It keeps me grounded.
Lisa asked when I started flying with Ken. I went into my third logbook which covers twenty years and 3,000 hours of flying time. Since the FAA requires instructors to log the instruction they give, and since about 64% of my lifetime of flying has been giving instruction, it was easy to find the entry in February 1992. Other entries caused me to remember some of the other students I taught, including George Schmidt from 24 years ago, who continues to be my flying buddy. Yet many were faceless names on a line on a page. Where are they now I wonder? I pray there are no more names written on memorials somewhere.
Gazing past trees and bushes -
to see calm water beyond.
Some tiny movement close-by.
Inchworm measures length
of bark, brown and slant.
Ah! One moment,
silly and playful -
the next poised tall
on hind legs.
Image of a stick.
Not even the tiniest
flicker of movement now.
Oneness with bark is all
that’s evident in the moment.
This attention can go on and on.
We hardly ever have flies in our apartment. Yesterday afternoon, I was unable to take a nap – even though I’d been up since 4:30AM to work my shift at the YMCA! – because I kept hearing a fly buzzing around behind the blinds at the head of the bed. Just as I would begin to doze off… buzz, buzz, buzz, accompanied by the sound of the fly’s body bouncing off the window. I finally gave up.
John and I don’t kill flies. We just wait for them to starve to death. We know it’s just a matter of time – since they won’t be able to find any food in our place.
Last night, after John went to bed, I sat at the dining room table to complete my evening prayers. And I had a visitor. Somebody was hungry. I watched the fly walking around the table, walking in tight circles. I could tell it was weak and tired because it didn’t startle when I moved. It just walked in circles, stopped to test the table surface with its proboscis, climbed onto my prayer-book and then back down to the table. The prayer-book must have seemed like a mountain. The fly stayed there on the table for quite a while. Finally, it flew off.
This morning, I discovered the fly carcass on the carpet in the living room. Seemed like I’d lost a dear companion. After all, in fly time, I must have spent several weeks with that tiny winged creature. The room is quiet now.
According to my mother, when I was a little boy playing by myself in our backyard, I would curse the wind. Because my father was a churchgoer and wouldn’t take God’s name in vain, I imitated him by shouting, “Gosh dang,” and waving my little arms.
I soon realized the wind was here to stay, a fact of life. When I started to fly and then give flight instruction, I learned and taught “crabbing” into the wind on downwind and “slipping” into the wind on final. Wind was a fact of flight. I always noted the windsock before taking off, while the quaking shades of green on the leaves of the trees kept me alert on landing because the tops of the leaves are darker than their underside.
Now I also watch the Weather Channel and get aviation weather reports.
As I became more Zen-like in my life, I realized flying in windy conditions keeps one in the present. But then flying should always keep one in the present.
I’ve never had a problem with breezes, be they the Chinook of the December Rockies or any cool breeze in August. Could they be the children of the wind?
I remember the song from the sixties, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”. Looking back over my life, I think I’ve done that all too often.
I’ve worn contact lenses all my life; my eyes are more sensitive to dust or whatever else might be blowing in the wind, plus allergies. As a result, I still find myself cursing the wind on occasion, just as I find myself cursing many of life’s other little annoyances. Lisa tells me, “That’s not very Zen-like.” My reply: “I can’t always sit and meditate.”
I guess much of life is indeed “Blowing in the Wind” as Dylan said.
I read two very interesting articles last week about the Presbyterian Church in the USA. They have voted to: (1) allow their pastors to officiate at same-sex marriages in states where such marriages are legal; and (2) stop investing in companies that provide the goods and services used by Israel to harass Palestinians – in particular, destroying their homes. The Presbyterian Church “no longer wanted to profit from investing in companies that have a hand in the destruction of people’s homes and lives. … it will now shift some of its investments into economic development programs in the Palestinian territories.”
What I find interesting about this is how quickly people get up in arms over such decisions. People are quick to protest and even threaten to leave the church. This got me thinking about the whole history of Christianity. Ever since the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches split in 1054, it’s been one disagreement after another, causing Christians to be divided into more and more denominations. When will this ever end?
I wonder how things might have been different if everyone had just stayed together – and accepted the fact that there will be disagreements. As long as a person loves the Lord Jesus Christ and desires to follow the two greatest commandments as taught by the Lord – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40) – then that person remains part of the Church. Christianity would be so much more credible if everyone truly felt welcome.
This subject touches me personally because I often feel external pressure to leave the Church because I don’t believe all the man-made doctrines that we’re “supposed” to believe as Christians. Yet, in the depths of my heart and spirit, I feel that I belong, that Jesus WANTS me to stay, to refuse to give in to those who try to make me feel somehow unworthy to be a member of the Church.
Why does it matter if we have different beliefs, if we disagree with the most recent votes or changes in teaching? My hope for Christianity – and for the whole world – is that we can learn to stay together, to love each other, regardless of our differences. Instead of creating more and more divisions, may we look for ways to reunite and stay united. Although we differ in some respects, we have one main point of union: We are all children of one heavenly Father who loves each one of us unconditionally. Let us celebrate that love!
I agree that we need to be wary of moral relativism – however, I don’t think it makes much sense to lump abortion and same-sex marriage into the same pile with murder and rape. They are not all the same from the standpoint of the harm that is done to people.
Think of it this way: Rape is always wrong. I can’t think of any reason why rape could be justified. Murder is almost always wrong. Notice I said ALMOST. There are situations where, unfortunately, it is necessary to kill one person to keep him/her from killing more people. Examples: Hitler or Osama bin Laden. That doesn’t mean we should rejoice over those necessary murders (as many people did with bin Laden), only that they were sadly necessary. There are situations where murder is justified.
Now, with abortion and same-sex marriage, we are getting into much grayer territory. We need to be wary of black or white thinking, either-or thinking. There are many situations where abortion or same-sex marriage is really the best solution for the people who are involved. This is what Jesus cares about: love and compassion. Jesus wants us to be able to look at the people who are right in front of us, to look at their particular situation, and help them make a difficult decision – but one that is in the best interests of those involved. So – I do NOT believe that abortion is ALWAYS wrong. There are situations where, sadly, abortion is the best choice, the choice that allows those who are involved to best practice love and compassion. This doesn’t mean abortion should be used in all situations, just that there ARE situations where it is appropriate. I believe this is also true with same-sex marriage. True love means the ability to commit oneself wholehearted to another person, to live unselfishly. There are many ways of bringing new life into the world, ways other than a man and a woman birthing a child. I’m convinced of this because I have several gay/lesbian couples who take my yoga classes. These couples have been together for many years. They truly love each other and have seriously committed themselves to each other. That’s what matters. Not our judgements of what we have decided is “right” or “wrong.”
Jesus tried to wake people up to these sorts of judgements in his own day when he said there was nothing wrong with healing the sick on the Sabbath. Human beings had decided it was ALWAYS wrong to heal on the Sabbath, but Jesus taught that there are situations where it is warranted. Same thing in our own day with subjects such as abortion and same-sex marriage. We need to give up our own judgements and ask “what would Jesus do” in these situations. He would do whatever spreads the most love and compassion in any given situation. He would do whatever best supports a person’s overall physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.