Learning to Fly

“When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.” Barbara Winter

Recently, I feel as if I’ve come to the edge of the light and am about to step off into the darkness. And as I determine to move forward, I know that my succeeding will have almost everything to do with my optimistic approach to each situation, my focusing, which I can call courage, and my faith.

All of us have so much on our plate, and how we see it, experience it, enjoy it, even, marks how much joy is in our lives. When you hear a child crying at church, interrupting the sermon, you can think how awful it is that child is crying, or how wonderful it is that a new life is healthily expressing itself. Perspective is all.

Seeing the opportunity where other ones may seem challenge helps, as does having confidence in one’s physical and mental abilities. Challenges abound, but confidence can turn them into opportunities. This story reminds me that it isn’t enough to have skills; rather, one must also have metal strength, courage, to do the incredible:

After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull’s eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot. “There,” he said to the old man, “see if you can match that!” Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. Curious about the old fellow’s intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit. “Now it is your turn,” he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground. Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target. “You have much skill with your bow,” the master said, sensing his challenger’s predicament, “but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot.”

When my children were younger, we all loved and played as nauseum a song called “Flying Lessons” by Michelle Shocked. It’s lyrics make learning to fly so beautifully simple:

Oh Best Beloved
With a little bit of patience
And imagination
We learn to fly
Now hold out your hands
Spread out your fingers
See how they are feathers
And your arms are wings

Even though Paul noted that Love was the greatest of three, Faith, Hope, and Love, that abide, I’d posit that Faith, having that ability, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted, to take “the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase,” is crucial to succeeding. When times challenge, when plans fall apart, there is nothing like cheerfulness, like courage, and like Faith to see one through the forest of doubt to the fields of serenity. Plan, trust, expect the solid ground or look for the flight lessons (see how your fingers are feathers and your arms wings), execute, evaluate, learn, move on.

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2 responses to “Learning to Fly

  1. Love this meditation. It reminds me a little of the article I just read on this NASA scientist, Jack Kinzler, who invented a device that essentially saved an entire mission. I loved his quote about he dives into the complications of things, rather than turning away–he said, “Whenever we run into trouble, that’s when I get really interested.” Some how the connection you made to flying made me think of this space engineer….

  2. I love this connection, Karen, and I appreciate the quotation. The idea that life is more interesting when one is in the middle of solving a complicated problem appeals to me. All of us, or at least those of us who want to make something great of our lives, recognize that life is best lived challenging oneself. Or, as Tupac noted, “You gotta be in love with struggle.” Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for stretching my thinking.

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