Sunday, September 1, 2013

Get Away From

Get away from 
The blind side of life
Honey, I want you 
To be by my side
Me and my backdoor 
Moves ain't no more
No more

- Stevie Ray Vaughan,
"Change It"

* * *

This morning there is a thick and dangerous fog. Cloud hidden, the sun lights the day weakly and I am remembering a late August morning thick with dangerous fog and hearing the news that Stevie Ray Vaughan and others were killed in a helicopter crash in a thick and dangerous fog trying to get out of SE WI and back to Chicago. It was as if a border had been crossed into an unknown, unfriendly territory where we'd all have to make our way without our guide.

* * *

Here is what is, my brother.
Here is what is, my sister: you are here for a short time, might as well make it a good time. We sabotage and undermine our innate, I say innate!, ability to experience wonder and awe because we are blind to the power in our hands to experience our lives as the adventures they are. Sure as shit, there is danger here - you could climb into a doomed helicopter - but there is also the indescribable wow, the exhilaration of going where you have to go, learning what you have to learn, doing what you have to do and giving back to Life the life well-lived.

My pal, Joseph Campbell, tells me: "Nothing is  exciting if you know what the outcome is going to be."

Lemme ask you, when was the last time you felt exhilarated?

Let that answer be a check against your dolor and woe.

* * *

When I was 14 years old, my cousin, Bob Child and his young son, Christopher, were killed in a helicopter accident at the Illinois State Fair. Bob, his wife and son, paid for tickets to take a quick fly-over of the fair. As the helicopter was landing the engines cut out and the bird dropped like a stone. The pilot and Bob's wife were injured, but Bob and Christopher were thrown from the helicopter. Both were decapitated by the rotors still chopping the air.

This is tattooed in my memory.

When I was 33 I worked on the movie, The River Wild, in Montana and Oregon. We filmed along the Kootenai and Rogue Rivers. It was a big helicopter show as that was the only way to ferry personnel, actors and equipment up the rivers. Part of my assignment was to work with the helicopter unit. My only experience with helicopters was the deaths of my cousins and Stevie Ray Vaughan. By the time the show ended I'd flown dozens and dozens of times, always saying a quick prayer to my father and my cousins to keep me aloft. And as frightened and haunted as I was by the prospect of those machines, they also provided me with a new way of seeing the world, of beauties I could not have imagined, of trust in the skill of the pilot, of wonder that I was, in my limited way, part of the crew.

Bob and Christopher climbed into a helicopter once and were killed.
I climbed in 100's of times and was not.
Stevie Ray climbed in after a concert and that was the last we've heard of him.

Nothing is exciting if you know what the outcome is going to be. Even grief.

* * *

Both caskets were closed at Bob and Christopher's funeral. Bob's wife was hospitalized and could not be there to say good-bye to her beloveds. It is impossible to render into words the depth of the sadness in that room that day. That, too, is tattooed in my memory.

As my father neared his death he said, "Hell, I've had a good run: my two boys, married over 40 years and besides, I've flown."

The joy my father felt piloting a plane was the pinnacle of his adventure. It paid for and compensated him for what was earth-bound, difficult and sad. Each of us is tasked with mastering the moment in our hands, the moment we have to live. Life, if you let it be, is a thrill ride, a hurtling fevered train, a ride on the Wall of Death, a chance to press yourself against eternity and find out what is eternal inside you.

I miss my dad. I still remember Christopher and Bob. I wish Stevie Ray was here to play some music for us to carry us through. But they're not here. You and I are here and it is up to us wring the last drop of life out of this rag. To do anything less is a betrayal of the promise made to each of us when light first creased out eyes: Go play. I got you.

The blind side of life is the one where you no longer dare yourself to live, where the pain of the past stops you from taking another step, where you haven't lifted a middle finger to the troubles besetting you, where you pretend there is all this time ahead of you and you can stumble through your days drunk and disorderly because, well, shit ain't fair.

You keep waiting for Life to be fair. Life is not fair. Fairness, justice, equity are human concepts. The Universe is not guided by such rules. No, man, let go of the fairness thing.  Go have an adventure. It may kill you, but go play. I got you.

* * *



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