Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw
If you have not read ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, by Richard Bach, please put it on your reading list. The story of ‘Jonathan’ a regular seagull, a common seabird, who stood out, stood up, flew higher, flew faster, flew slower and flew more aerobatics than the rest of the flock, and was outcast from his own society for it. It really is a story with meanings at many levels – and the message is multi-multi-threaded. One aspect is that we should all ‘dream, try, achieve’ – and accept being potentially ‘shunned’ by others for the craziness of an idea. That very spirit led to the creation of NASA’s space shuttles, now in retirement. The shuttle Discovery was flown around Washington D.C. last week, bolted onto the top of a modified Boeing 747, before finally going to live, and inspire some more, at the Smithsonian museum.
Much as this oversized rocket-power-up, glide-back ‘seagull’ lacks aerodynamic beauty; it certainly has played a major part in the development of many space based projects. However, some may remember the issue of thermal tiles that fell off, and the tragedies that befell some of the missions. Regardless of the issues, and even the loss of life and equipment, the project pushed on, breaking the edges of the envelope wide open, celebrating the sacrifices of the many, by achieving the seemingly impossible.
What is probably most important is, that many of us are inspired by the sight of the space shuttle, just in a picture. Imagine the inspiration poured out by the sheer vision in reality as she flew piggy-back from Houston to Washington, to her new terrestrial resting place.
Does the sight of the Space Shuttle make you want to be an astronaut? Probably not. But it does make you feel good inside, it does raise something, the spark of a passion to do something amazing... and for many that inspiration has led to careers in totally different fields – but the inspiration was needed to catalyse the reaction!
Having recently met with the members of a number of the communities we fly over regularly, and now supply with health education materials by air, I came to realise what a massive inspiration the act of taking health education by air to them is! The ‘thank you’ stream is not just for dropping their materials to them, but for changing the spirit of the day – for creating an inspirational wave in our passage. It brought a tear of happiness to my eye when around 40 community members held high their packages from the ETCHE (Encouragement Training for Community Health Empowerment) drops.
Flying over, just waving out the window at the children and the folks below is making more of a difference than I had ever imagined…
I wonder how many inspirational moments we are passing up in our everyday lives. How often have you failed to look out of the window when you hear the sound of a plane going by? It could have been your moment of inspiration from the sky – there in passage, free to take, but missed, by choice.
It is interesting how, throughout history, certain ‘objects’ have inspired more than others. Take trains for instance. At one time it was common for children in Europe to want to be a ‘train driver’. Here, as much as in Europe, the excavators (and the bigger the better), catch children’s eyes, lighting fires in the depths of their sub and not so sub-consciousness – the sight of something that is so different to the norm… Sadly, I often see parents pulling their children away from their inspirational moment, unknowingly detracting from their future motivations and innovations. Yet, in Washington last week, entire crowds; adults, children, servicemen, teachers, students, preachers, all stopped what they were doing and cheered the passing of the Space Shuttle, even after several tours of the city, prior to landing.
You cannot buy inspiration, nor can you sell it. It must be given freely, and received with no commitment. A transaction without tax! Long may that last! (Please do not inform the GRA/IRS!)
With the increasing dependence on electronic media, children take longer to get to see many things… ‘paper books’ are far more ‘person’ friendly and do not depend on power nor lots of supervision. Perhaps every school and every village in the country should have a set of inspirational picture books. Stimulation for the soul to be taken in by the eyes… ‘eye inspiration’ if you will!
Of course, it is not always just the image of an aircraft, train, tractor, excavator or similar that inspires. Poetry, music, art and people themselves can trigger something deep inside of us. For one of the students who recently read ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, it was the words, accompanied by a simple black-and-white still photo of a seagull. The words meant something to her, something special, something personal – and the picture acted as a locus onto and into which her feelings attached. The smile, the beaming smile that came across her face as she read out a particular passage to us, hesitating on one or two more complex words, gave those around a special moment of transmitted inspiration.
When your children are reading, or looking at something with interest, are you taking the moment to watch, listen and also gain from the new energy that is being emitted? Often it is so powerful that you may find yourself transfixed in the moment of inspiration, and feel the need to pass it on. This occurs not just in our children, but also in our colleagues and friends, if only we can take the time, making the effort to find it.
In the hustle and bustle of today’s electronic screens, be they computer, iPhone, Android device or television, we are losing the shared inspiration that only comes from watching and listening, sensing and absorbing the moment of others – together.
Ghana is rapidly being ‘digitalised’, and not just via the Biometric Register of Voters, and, with it, some of the moments of opportunity to share are being lost. Furthermore, many of those who are not yet ‘digitalised’ are often so busy trying to survive, to earn their daily kenkey, to gain some banku or to splash out on some ‘Kofi Brokeman’, that their eyes and ears are focused on survival, and they are missing the opportunity for inspiration.
Receiving inspiration is one thing, but creating the opportunity for it is another. Taking time out of the madness of ‘day-to-day economics’ and deliberately sharing an image of awe, reading a passage of poetry that moves the soul, watching that plane soar across the sky and just taking a moment to chat about it, and ‘sneaking a peek’ into the eyes of the inspired, spreading the movement, creating the future, opening the doors to dreams yet to come.
It just takes just a moment… but it will change your outlook, their outlook, and perhaps the future of a whole generation.
Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics (www.waasps.com www.medicineonthemove.org e-mail email@example.com)