January 20, 2009:
As I write this, I'm watching President Obama and the First Lady dance at one of the many Inauguration Balls. I was in DC this morning and had finished a trip last night. Why on earth did I not go to the National Mall to personally experience this historic occasion? I have many excuses: I'm trying to battle a cold, this was my fifth day gone, I missed my Wife and girls, it was 25 degrees in DC, etc. I got up early, and arrived home at noon. I've been listening, watching (TV in a warm house), and thinking all day about the direction our country has been heading in the past, and will be heading in the future.
It all reminds me of a flight I had recently, from Huntsville, Alabama (HSV) to Washington, DC (DCA) in the late afternoon. We were in smooth cruising flight at 31,000 feet, headed east, with the autopilot on and the lowered sun at our backs, it's light painting the fuzzy cloud deck beneath us a pale yellow shade with hints of brown in the cracks and crevices of the breaks in the undercast below us. God, this is beautiful, I think (to God), observing even more than this, the contrast of the clear blue sky to the features below my First Officer and I.
The 'even more' is something that she can't see, and I won't tell her about; we're working again, and I've got the jet descending down to 22,000 feet. Absorbed in the experience, I drink it in, because we'll be penetrating the clouds soon, and my mind has reminded me to ask her to please turn the seat belt sign back on and talk to the peeps.
A vector is something, anything, which has a a direction and a velocity. At this moment, ours is particularly striking. The sun is actually behind us a little to the right, and I'm transfixed by the shadow of our contrail on the cloud deck we'll penetrate in a minute. My eyes, more by experience than instinct, follow our contrail forward to find our shadow, the jet's shadow, the tip of our spear, the tip of our vector. Anticipation builds quickly in this instant.
Shannon wrote a great post about 'Sun Dogs' a few days ago. This is the pilot's version. I used to call them Sun Dogs too but have since learned what I marvelled at is a 'Pilot's Halo'. (I don't know what the scientific term is, and this slang has nothing to do with pilots being Holy!) At the tip of the contrail is our jets shadow, enveloped and surrounded by a beautiful rainbow colored halo. As we lose altitude and close the distance to the clouds, our shadow and the halo gets larger and larger. I've seen this before but not in such distinctive fashion. As my spirit resonates at the culmination of nature's production of our display, we meet ourselves, larger than life, and see the full effect of our speed as we slice into the clouds.
After descending more, down to 22,000 feet, we've now been in the lamp shade for a couple minutes. This one isn't very bright, it's actually gray. I say 'in the lamp shade' because in conditions like this there are no breaks, no edges, no color changes, no definition, and no turbulence, it's perfectly smooth. Thus we have no sensation of speed or direction. Are we going anywhere at all? A glance at the MFD (Multi-Function Display) shows our TAS (True airspeed) is 438, our GS (ground speed) is 551, so we have a tailwind of 113. The aircraft is navigating dead center on our programmed flight route. But from the look out the window, we might as well be going backwards. Pilots learn to trust the instruments, as we are now.
January 21, 2009:
Our country has been on it's own majestic vector since it's beginning. It hasn't been an easy or perfect journey, but a blessed and beautiful one. And now, 146 years after Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and 40 years after Martin Luther King's assassination, our nation has reached another signpost of progress. We have freely elected the first black American President, something I, like many others, was skeptical of occuring anytime soon. Congratulations President Obama!
You may or may not have voted for him, but he deserves your support, regardless. Some say he is popular just because he's black, and that he lacks experience for the office. I say otherwise: investigate his life, education, and experience. He was a professor of Constitutional law who has spoken out against the moral and ethical breaches the former administration consistently committed. He ran an amazing campaign which showcased his political skill and leadership ability. Obama's stances on social issues of personal morality might be disagreeable to you, as they are to me, but I believe he has shown that he is on the Biblical side of other fundamental moral, ethical, and human rights issues. Who better to lead our nation out of the cloud we are in than a leader such as this man?
There are many opinions on why we're in this cloud and don't know where or how fast we're going. Some say we've been in it for a while, that we've lost our moral compass and have been heading the wrong way for a long time now. Others believe things were going great, that the economic crisis we are in is the fruition of the recent greed, materialism and consumerism that that our society has permitted to go on. Still others want to point the blame at the previous administration and the 'ends justify the means' philosophy it operated on. They are all right.
Regardless of the reasons, we are in it, big time. But Barrack doesn't seem to be into spreading blame, he's into making change. I Hope he can do it, let's give him a chance. He's not the Saviour though, he's our new President.
Let's trust the instruments, knowing that God's sovereignty is still in effect. He's still 'got the whole world in his hands', as the children's choir just sang at the National Cathedral prayer breakfast. If, after four years, President Obama, with our cooperation, is unable to implement the change and hope he's promised, we can vote him out of office for someone else. In any case, after celebrating Obama's Inauguration I feel assured that our country will continue onto it's destined journey.