There's been a lot of 50th anniversaries going on lately and it makes one want to start looking back at his own life. If you chop it up into decades and few it I can see that going back one ten year lump to 1978, I had just lost a bundle of money in my first airshow rain-out, my son and my Pitts were seven and my daughter was two. Back twenty years and I graduated from college, 1500 hours in the log book, 25 gallons in the tarik of my GTO and I was headed East to a new land and a new life.
Thirty puts me with a new driver's license and the only high compression heads and dual intake manifold in a small town in the middle of what my dad calls God's Country (Actually Nebraska doesn't belong to God, he just likes to visit there, when he needs a place to relax.)
Forty and I'm the six year old standing in the back seat of a BT-13 my dad bought from the Army. The tail is up in the bed of a pick-up truck as we tow it home, where he painted the name of his store on the side and we towed it around to county fairs for kids to sit in. My kid brother is in the picture too. God, how I miss him. I wonder how many others that old Vultee infected with the aviation virus? The smell of Bakelite, hydraulic oil and whatever it takes that makes military airplanes smell military still occasionally wafts through my nostrils, when I hold my head just so and my mind peeks back around a comer in time.
Fifty years ago, when Air Progress was being born, whatever I was to be was still formless energy somewhere. Or maybe I was living another life, in another body. I don't know where or who, but the sky was involved The sky and things mechanical that smelled wonderful. And crackled, when hot. If I was simply a minor electrical discharge in someone else's brain, that someone had four more years to live before he would pass one and trade his life-energy for mine on the first day of March, 1942.
Reincarnation? Don't think so. My kind of faith doesn't exactly allow for the religious and only recognizes small amounts of the mystical. But, as a trained engineer/scientist I firmly believe in Einstein's mass/energy relationships and Neils Bohr's unfathomable quantum theories. Because of that, I don't think the energy that makes us tick, that gives us life, just goes up in a puff of nothingness in that last instant of life.
Energy has to go, or become, something, when it's released. But, when we pull out the mixture for the last time there are none of the recognizable forms of energy release. When one of us checks out, there is no giant bang, no flash of light or huge heat build-up in the room. so where did the energy go? What happened to the complex mixture of frequencies and amplitudes that combined to make that barely viscous slurry of carbon and water walk and talk? Dance and sing. And fly.
Why fly? What in the energy pattern we inherit from someone else makes us want the third dimension so badly? What is it that draws those with similar energy patterns together, as if we can sense the sympathetic vibrations in another's aura or flux field?
Assuming, for a moment, that energy is simply energy and it isn't totally brand conscious, there's the possibility that species differentiation isn't part of the formula. Maybe life energy is life energy and the basic form works for toads, tarantulas and Einsteins.
If that's the case, what's to prevent a dying eagle's energy from being transferred into a newborn child? We know it happens with cockroach energy otherwise, where did we get all the drug dealers and the attorneys who defend them?
Okay, so the concept we're playing with is this: we all are based on a prior form of existing energy that came from a prior life. It doesn't make any difference what the life was since the life energy is generic. It also makes sense that the selection of where that life energy goes is random, but it must go into a newly formed life. That means an earthworm could be giving its energy to a future politician and a dying politician could be contributing to a newly hatched platypus (or dung beetle).
If that's true (even if it isn't, it makes for interesting conceptualizing), let's carry it one step further and see what this says about our personal characteristics. The energy has to be contained by the physical vessel, the body which receives it and undoubtedly that chemical container alters it to a certain degree. So, the energy of an earthworm, for instance, has taken on a little of the flavor of the dirtdodging wiggler. Ditto, the energy released by an eagle or a chickadee. That means the next recipient of the energy can't help but show a little of the last owner's personality
Looking around at our flying friends while thinking about past life energy, we begin to understand a lot about ourselves. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, ". . . I know where you're coming from." For instance, the fact we fly at all says our energy package was extruded through at least one bird-life. The type of pilot we are may be the result of what kind of bird that was and how many times that energy was recycled by birds. For instance, Chuck Yeager's energy obviously spent a lot of time being recaptured by regal birds of prey. Eagles,hawks, falcons and the like. Even when his energy didn't make it back into a bird, it avoided the mundane and spent some time in fun loving otters or rnaybe silent footed cougars.
And then there's the rest of us, who carry a little chickadee and a lot of earthworm. We fly, but we aren't soaring with the eagles and our timidity keeps us from being the wildly adventurous, in control types we so admire.
What does this say about me? I'm not sure, but it explains a lot of the desperate contradictions I have to fight on a daily basis. I can feel the energy of a long gone airmail pilot mixing with the high intensity, fast moving vibes of a peregrine falcon. Unfortunately, somewhere along the trail, my energy spent some time lounging in the sun with a woodchuck and bouncing across the rocks in a ground squirrel. This would explain my frustrations with not being more of a pilot than I am and why I take so little seriously and have to fight the urge to curl up on a hot rock in the sun.
I haven't the slightest idea what got me started thinking in this vein but just a few minutes ago, I finished watching the Pancho Barnes story on television. As historically warped and flawed as it was (Hilliard did a good job of the aerial stuff with what he had to work with), the one thing they tried to hammer home is the unusual way in which aviators are tied to one another. We are a community unlike any other, with the possible exception of race drivers, and it smacks of the old .... . birds of a feather . . ': adage. We seek out the aviator breed, but the chickadees still hang with the chick-adees and the eagles with their own. And I'd like to know why. What is it about aviation that combines emo-ionalism and creative thoughts with down and dirty nuts and bolts? What is it that drives otherwise sensible people to put themselves into the ultimate hostile environment for which, as a species, they are totally unsuited.
It is almost as if we have an inbred sense of the sky. As if part of us knows we belong up there, that we were never supposed to be limited to two dimensions. Some deep down part of our energy is directed at leaving the ground for a place in which most human beings have no interest. why? It makes no sense.
Actually, it does make sense. Or at least as much sense as my babblings about life-energy. I truly believe in a closed energy/mass system because it is logical, it makes sense. If we apply that concept to life and then stretch it over to aviation, it gets a little thin, but makes as good an explanation for the lure of the sky as anything else I've heard.
So, until someone comes up with a better idea, I'm going to be content to explain my personal characteristics as being the result of past owners of my energy-package spending more time off the ground than on it. Yeah, I know...it sounds a little dopey. But, you've got a better explaination, I'm ready to hear it.