Ode to Pilots

by Frank Muller

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High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air . . .Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

by John Gillespie Magee. Jr (born 1922 – died 1941) British Royal Air Force Pilot

I have had the blessing of being the son of a Marine fighter pilot who also gave me the opportunity to sit behind the yoke of an aircraft. I have further had the blessing of a Father – in – law who was a 30 year plus captain at Delta Airlines and in fact was privileged to be on his Retirement flights.

As a child I laid on the rug in my parents’ home and watched Neil Armstrong take the first step of a human being off of our home planet. I was mesmerized and enthralled at the accomplishment especially in a day and age before cell phones, microwaves, the internet, personal computers ……

It made us all proud not just as Americans but as people of this Earth that we have created a land of such freedom that despite its’ imperfections was capable of forming those kinds of people who made that possible in a time where its’ accomplishment was unimaginable.

Pilots have long held a romantic place in my heart. As I have matured, I have come to believe that we are all endowed with this desire to soar. To climb outside of ourselves freed not just from the physical laws of the universe but truly free in every aspect of our soul.

We see in the great poets this aspiration to soar to the heights, to hop along mountain tops, to skip atop the waves, to dream the impossible dream. These feelings and aspirations should not be constrained but rather embraced by parents and friends and colleagues.

This is not a fairy tale story that suggests the lie that we can all be whatever we want to be. That is a cruel lie to children and adults. We are each blessed with gifts and talents but make no mistake those are not equally given as measured by the worlds’ standards but absolutely equally given by divine standards.

I could shoot basketballs from sunrise to sunset, and I would still never become a Michael Jordan. Height, skeletal frame, genetics all set limits to my ceiling and that is totally ok.

However, there is no ceiling with regards to how high I can climb towards our Lord and towards the worldly virtues. Each of us can soar in this regard and none of us are limited in that regard. The testimony of the saints is a story of the weakest become the strongest.

This is what should be encouraged to all we meet. Soar, soar to the limitless heights a soul (all souls) is capable of achieving. This is no fairy tale; this is the real Truth.

In fact, the more childlike and simpler we become the more we can soar to our Creator and to His ways, versus our own. I could dream of becoming Michael Jordan but that will not happen. We can dream of our God, and we can all become like him.

This is the accomplishment that leads to joy and fulfillment regardless of my inability to dunk a basketball or make a three-point shot. My dignity, your dignity, our dignity is not a function of our worldly abilities or accomplishments but rather our other worldly unconstrained faith.

Pilots and the faithful hearted share the same longing but not always the same destination. This wonderful poem captures so aptly the blessed intersection of a worldly pilot setting his sights on the transcendent God. The God that exists without limitations, without constraints, simply is. The God that Loves and is Love.

To touch that face, to see that face is the true longing of a heart. It is this face that we all long to see. Prior to our Savior, the Uncreated Creator existed outside of time, space, matter. We could not see or touch Him. Simply, I am.

In our Savior, we see the Uncreated Creator in our own form in our own time, our own space, our own matter. This “face” now is ours and can be touched and seen (albeit dimly while we breathe). This is the face that awaits us all. This final high flight is the flight we each take but it is not limited to the moment of our death and judgement.

Pay close attention to the poem, this pilot/poet silently lifts his mind to that transcendent space and in that space, he touches that face. This is the true flight; it is the flight of prayer and poetry.

Shortly after penning this missive, our family will be placing to rest the remains of my father-in-law. This beautiful poem will be read for those gathered backdropped by the picture of him in his captain’s uniform. Many will hear this prayer and think of the pilot. I will hear the prayer and think of the soul.

May Peace be with us all.

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