Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17th, 2014

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

I was recently privileged to visit the Science Museum in London, with my wife. Of course, our first stop had to be at the aerospace gallery! The place was filled with historical, and contemporary, examples of aviation development and space exploration. From the earliest engines and airframes through to space ships and Mars rovers! 

Clearly, the early aircraft were often the most amazing, from a 'how did they do that?' point of view. They were built without computer models, without CNC machining options, without prior knowledge of what they were doing - but always with passion and a love for what they did. The underlying story was not one of 'profit-hunting', but one of 'adventure-seeking'. The desire to do something different, make something new, break a boundary, be different and make a difference, without any monetary incentive, underlies every great advance, and every great person.

We were able to visit the 3-D projection of the Red Arrows aerobatic display - which was nice, and provided some inspiration - but nothing compared to seeing close up the work of those early aviators. We then went into a full motion flight simulator - which came nowhere near to the feeling of a real plane... not even close! (I will admit that we 'crashed' once, and that was nothing like the real thing either - for we are both alive and well after hitting the ground in a loop at low level! All it took was a few seconds for 'reset' and we were back at three thousand feet in a barrel roll - nothing like the real thing at all!)

Now, think back to those early aviators, they often died trying out their ideas, for there is no 'reset' in real life - it is 'do or die', and that makes it much more valuable than any interest in 'profit' - it has to be 'passion'! Without passion you cannot begin to think of stepping out of the 'safe zone'. Without passion our 'lack of certainty' holds our hearts back from realising their dreams. If we deny our hearts desires too often, our heart simply stops prompting us, and accept that the 'status quo' is all that it will be allowed to experience. With it, our passion dies. 

During my time away, I also read the book 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho, which echoed my own feelings about adventure, discovery, and the unwritten language of the world. If you haven't read it, do take a couple of hours to read it! Some of the quotes in this thought provoking book should be shared, to whet your appetite to read this inspirational story...

'There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure' - how many times have we come across that reasoning for not stepping out! Yet, those early aviators really had to pack their fear of failure out of sight!

'When we love, we always strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.' - passion has so many benefits - and not only for ourselves but for others too. Look at the knock on positives of aviation and engineering, that the passion of those early creators of flying machines enabled, that is evident in all of our lives today!

'The simplest things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.' - when we look at the simple, effective designs of those early machines, we wonder why on earth we didn't come up with the ideas before. So many times we try the complicated before going with the simple - and that takes wisdom; wisdom often only learned from trial and error of the more complicated solutions!

Perhaps, the most striking quote to share is 'Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity.' - how many times do we fail to step out, step up and do something because of our fear of losing what we have, being laughed at or simply not succeeding?

The title of 'The Alchemist' refers to the ancient belief that one could turn any base metal into gold. The 'magical stories' of Alchemy (the art of the Alchemist) resolve around learning how to transform lesser elements into two components - the Philosophers Stone and the Elixir of Life. The idea being that those who found 'the path' would be able to use the Philosophers Stone to convert metals into gold (aka riches), and, at the same time, use the Elixir of Life to gain immortality. It was all about being 'Rich and immortal' - sounds familiar to what I hear as aims and ambitions on the streets of London, Accra, Kumasi, Kpong, Paris, Las Vegas, etc. today... So, let us look closer at the life of an alchemist of great repute.

Robert Boyle, who was born on the 25 January, 1627, was a philosopher and alchemist - but, as with all the other alchemists (before and since), never managed to transform any base metal into Gold - nor to obtain immortality (he died on the 31st December 1691). However, he did achieve the principles of Alchemy. He is often referred to as the first chemist or the father of chemistry - the science of understanding the elements and their compounds, and transforming molecules into new and exciting compounds. Clearly, this has given him immortality, at least in name and positive reputation! 

Sometimes, we set out to achieve something, and although we may appear to have experienced failure, we have often, in fact, achieved exactly what we set out to do just in another guise! Boyle is proof that immortality has nothing to do with our physical lives, but more about what we leave behind us after our bodies are no longer useful. Boyle also proved, we see in hindsight, that the gold he was able to create was not the element, but something much greater. Our medicines, the plastics we use every day, the fuel for our cars and aircraft, the chemical reactions developed to power our batteries and more - all are rooted in those early scientific works of Boyle. He may have set out to transform one element into another - but instead he laid down the framework to change the world - and to actually extend the life of those who came after him through the wonders of chemical sciences.

If we do not follow our hearts, we can never aspire to the 'effective alchemy' of Boyle. We must learn that we can balance any amount of negative with a small positive - we just have to learn first how to move the fulcrum towards the negatives! (imagine a balance where you can move the pivot point - the amounts on each side need no longer be equal for the scales to balance!). 

Perhaps too many people are focused too much on 'money and longevity'. Perhaps we should seek more to leave a positive life changing legacy for those around us, to create a change that lasts in society, rather than changing lead into gold. The pursuit of positive change has much greater meaning than any amount of riches! Our values must be readjusted if we are to aspire to more than ending up as a gold adorned, wrinkled corpse...

As Martin Luther King Jr once said, 'It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.'

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and Pilot/Engineer with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

1 comment:

  1. Apologies for the late posting. Even webmasters aren't immune to viral attacks... of the rotoviral type.