Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy

Essay -

I am reading a wonderful essay today by Laurence Gonzales, called "On Being Cool."  It is in New American Essays, a book edition of New Letters magazine, a publication by the University of Missouri-Kansas City that I highly recommend.

Laurence is writing about his father, who was a pilot in WWII, who chose like my father, not to go back and re-visit what happened there.  He was "cool."  Laurence has a dream to fly upside down.  This essay discusses his experiences with flying.  I would like to quote the whole essay, but offer a few tid-bits that are with me now, today.

    "Randy demonstrated how, by putting the airplane between the sun and the cloud and by tilting it just so, he could make a perfectly circular rainbow, refracted by the thin oboe reed of our wings, and projected down onto our shadow, right on the frothy surface of the clouds below.  We flew along, dancing with our rainbow, and he said, "Isn't that neat?  When the top of the cloud is flat, you can make a big rainbow and then spin down through the center of it."
    "I came for what I thought was a technical flight training, and here I had found a peculiar little wizard who wanted to teach me to spin down through the center of my own rainbow.  What imagination could have guessed at this lesson.  Was it genius?  Wisdom?  Lunacy?"
    "It was the temptation of the Buddha: The trick is to overcome fear, to let go and see the beauty and transcend the instinct to hold on tight.  Joseph Campbell in describing the three temptations  of the Buddha, said, "Then the Lord of Lust turned himself into the Lord of Death and flung at the Buddha all the weapons of an army of monsters.  But the Buddha has found in himself that still point within, which is of eternity, untouched by time.  So again, he was not moved, and the weapons flung at him turned to flowers of worship."  So Randy had shown me how to turn my fear into rainbows.  We were learning the first lesson of the fighter pilot, the stunt pilot, the aerobaticist: The lesson in coolness.  It's not a lesson in acting cool.  It's a lesson in being cool. It's a lesson in turning a twisting anxiety into a calm awareness."

    The essay continues with how to pull an airplane out of a spin.  It took years to figure out.  Why?  Because you have to let go of the stick.  You have to give up control.  The lesson:  "To regain control, you  have to let go."   He continues.

    "One day my seven year old daughter, Amelia, came to me after watching a Coyote and Road Runner cartoon and asked me why, when Coyote ran off the cliff, he didn't fall until he looked down.  Moreover (she wanted to know) why didn't he just refuse to look down, and then he could go, "wherever he wanted to go?"  By asking why the fact of being afraid made Coyote fall, Amelia had hit upon a universal principle.  To show fear, even if we show it only to ourselves, is to fall from grace, to fall physically, to fall spiritually, to die."

    I love the idea of spinning down through my own rainbow.  I also feel there is a place to feel our fear, and I understand what he is saying.  There is also a place to let go of the stick, of the fear, and, simply,  trust.  May this trust, this still point within,  be with me today, and perhaps, also, if you are so struck, with you.   


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