Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Sick 'Man in the Box'

I'm writing about my recent Proficiency Check (PC) in the 'box', the full motion flight simulator a couple weeks ago. It wasn't cool, radical, or impressive (the modern slang definitions kids use for something that is 'sick'), but I made it through ok. I actually was sick, the cold and flu kind, and afterwards I wished I had called in sick instead. Unwisely, I had deadheaded down to CLT the day before, 18 hours after I started feeling a little achy and stopped up. By the time I made it down to CLT I felt significantly worse, but still good enough to eat mexican next to the hotel. The day of the checkride came, and I regretted showing up, but I made it through. The worst was yet to come.

Whether you're a pilot or not, do yourself a favor, and learn from my mistake. If you're sick, you're sick, no matter what you're scheduled to do. The simulator is used all day and night long, and there's significantly less airflow in 'the box' than in the real airplane's flight deck. It's a great germ factory to pass on bugs to other pilots and instructors, and I didn't properly consider that factor before I showed up at the training center. It's easier to reschedule a PC than cancel a few because the examiner is sick, and you only need one pilot, not two, to conduct a PC. I hope my sim partner or examiner didn't get sick. I emailed them to express my regret if it occurred.

Post -checkride and post-adrenaline, I boarded the US Airways jet in CLT for the flight back in misery. Breathing rapidly, I definitely had a fever going, and appearance wise, I thought it was good I was out of my pilot uniform. Then, waiting to get off the plane in DC, I was still trying to clear my clogged ears, and rubbing my hands together to prevent shivering. A hot crash pad bath later, I myself crashed in exhaustion, and awoke to wet sheets. However, my fever had broken, and I felt much better, relatively speaking, so I went home on my first of two days off, knowing I would call in sick on the second day. I was to commute back the day before for another trip, and by experience I knew my sinuses and especially my ears would still be too congested to fly an RJ around for three days.

What kind of fun do we have during a PC? Well, for the first two hours we have an 'oral' portion, where the examiner quizzes myself and the other pilot on our jet's pre-flight procedures, limitations, emergency memory checklist items, and the operation of the various systems of the jet (Electrical, Environmental, Fuel, Powerplant, Hydraulic, etc.).

Next, we have a four hour simulator ride, where we're basically put through the ringer. The examiner 'plays God' with the weather and aircraft's location and behavior. The simulator is mounted on hydraulic struts and is connected to a 'host' computer, which is programmed to make it mimic the real airplane. It's so realistic that the FAA permits new pilots to do all of their flight training in the sim. That's right, the first flight almost all airline pilots perform in a new jet (to them) is one with the paying public on board.

One of us is the PF (Pilot Flying) and the other is the PNF for each half of the four hour session. We fly a normal takeoff, and that's as about as normal as it gets. Steep turns and demonstration wing stalls are performed before we start a myriad of instrument approaches, with aircraft system malfunctions occurring at various times. Engine failures always thrown in, usually right at rotation speed on takeoff roll. We experience windshear and loss of control events that we would valiantly try to avoid in the real world. On a PC we expect to usually go around from an approach, not land. We have so much to get done in such a short time that a PC makes for an intense experience, we really have to pay attention, focus for a while and work together as a team.

My PC partner Ben and I have both been studying for a least a couple of weeks for this, both the oral portion and the flying portion. It's stressful, but if I've studied, I'm prepared. I've been flying this jet for over five years now, so these days it gets a little easier each time. For me, the part that requires discipline is actually studying, because I am pretty familiar with the aircraft. Fortunately, I didn't slack off too much for this one, and my PC went pretty smoothly.

When it comes down to it, I actually like PC's, because I always learn a few things, make new friends, and afterwards I feel accomplished and prepared to fly the paying public for another six months. Speaking of which, what would you like me to write about for the next six months? New or old stories? Flying related or crew/passenger? Spiritual matters or practical? Educational - career wise or my personal history? Let me know, or not.
Before I'm done with this one, I'd like to drop this on your lap. Commuting home yesterday from my last four day trip, I was narrowing down a title for this post, and the thought of another sick 'man in the box' came to me. I remembered Layne Staley, former lead singer of the grunge-metal band Alice in Chains, and their song 'Man in the Box', from 1991.

Unfortunately, Layne Staley is gone from the earth, his emaciated body found two weeks after a fatal overdose of cocaine and heroin in April, 2002. Alice in Chains had quite the following during the 90's, starting with 'Man in the Box' and it's despondent and shockingly honest lyrics of his seeming resignation to a fate of intended spiritual blindness: (these are PG lyrics BTW)

"I'm the man in the box, buried in my ____, won't you come and save me, save me
Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut
Jesus Christ, deny your maker
He who tries, will be wasted
Feed my eyes, now you've sewn them shut"

Shocking words from a song which struck a chord in many a lost young person's soul, which is still played on the radio. More often than our culture knows or acknowledges, rock song lyrics reveal the true duality between the dark spiritual lives and real struggles in the physical lives of people.

However, to be fair, in a recorded interview with Fuse TV, Layne Staley himself stated that the lyrics are about censorship in the mass media, and "I was really stoned when I wrote it."

Really. I've always taken song lyrics in any song at their face value, and everyone should have that attitude. How can Rock artists say with a straight face that the controversial words in their songs are just words, they don't mean what they seem to? It's just another denial after the first one. Conversely, the hymns and praise and worships songs we we stand and sing for the Lord our God on Sunday morning and at Christian music concerts don't mean what they say either?

Taken in the context of the words, these lyrics have scriptural truth, strangely enough, and in my opinion are tantamount to (1) taunting God to save you with no act of the will on your part, (2) asking and inviting the Enemy to help you deny your maker (who is naturally known to all men - Romans 1:19-20), and (3) declaring the spiritual truth that if you intently deny Jesus Christ, you eyes will become spiritually blinded and 'shut'.
Taunting God to save you will not get much of a response from Him. Crying out in submission and acceptance of Jesus as your personal savior will. Being saved still takes an impetus of the will, from somewhere deep inside your heart.

Think about the difference between belief and denial. These lyrics portray the process of denial but belief changing to pure unbelief. They deny Jesus Christ while at the same time acknowledging him as his maker - There is no unbelief in those words, just denial. The final fruit is a blindness in which there is no way to see the light anymore, an inability to believe anymore.

Applicable verses? We got plenty of 'em. John is a favorite 'Gospel of Love' that teaches good deal about the 'light'. From John 3:18-20 (the part after 'for so God Loved the world . . .'): "18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah saw Jesus' coming glory and wrote about him. John quotes from Isaiah 6:10 after Jesus has entered Jerusalem for the last time, and 'most of the people still don't believe in Jesus' despite all the miraculous signs he had done: From John 12:40: "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them."
The apostle Paul has some very interesting and applicable words from his second letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 4:4 (NLT): "4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God."
Are you shocked by all this, or would you like more? The popularity and prevalence of Satanic images and the acceptance of 'evil' (as long as it doesn't 'hurt' anyone) in our culture is to me just more evidence that the Enemy is among us, and that we're living in the last days. The popular metal band Metallica has the strong presence of the Enemy evidenced in the words of their hit "Sad but true". Click on the link for a look at the lyrics.
Let's put on the full armor of God, and remember this from Ephesians 6:12: "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."
Maybe I brought you down with my other 'sick man in the box' stuff. But in the fallen world we live in, which is currently the enemy's dominion, it needs to be addressed. As Christians, we can reach out in Christ's Love and fellowship to others who are sick men and women in the box, no matter how sick they are. Some will come out in the light to be treated and made well by the master physician, and our eternal God will be glorified forever.


Pat said...

Matthew 4 (New International Version)

The Temptation of Jesus
1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'[a]"

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" 'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'[b]"

7Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'[c]"

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'[d]"

11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Sounds like this is what is happening in the lyrics of "The Man in the Box".

Satan is tempting us through every avenue this world has to offer.

I can also see where these words could be applied to what it would be like to die and live eternally in that place that is reserved for those who are separated from Christ. Joe wrote about it in his book.

The irony is that all it takes to live forever is to be humble before God and recognize that our hope is in Jesus -- not in anything this world has to offer.

'Captain Craig' said...

Thanks, Mom, that's very insightful. I agree with you, although I'll be chewing on the fat of it for a bit. It's amazing and scary how wide and long the dark spiritual road is in our culture and society these days.

I plan on making a list of links to Christian blogs and websites, and I'll put Joe's book on it!