Tuesday, August 6, 2013

High Flight

John  Gillespie Magee, Jr

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

My dear friend and colleague and mentor and former Dean at the University of St. Thomas College of Education, Leadership and Counseling has been diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease. 

To say it is a challenge to him and his wonderful family is, as more of us find out about this crippling and terminal disease, an understatement. 

He has approached this phase of his life with a unique courage and insight. These are my words, having had the privilege of visiting at some length with him several times in recent months. They are not his words.

His words can be found in his remarkably insightful and inspirational "Dis-Ease Diary," which also can be found by clicking this link below. There are numerous entries and all of them merit reading and reflection.

It is hard to imagine anyone's understanding of life and death issues not being lifted by his insights and questions. His many questions suggest some answers, but if there are any, they must be found by each of us. 

The poem above was written by a WW1 pilot almost 100 years ago, shortly before his death. I have long thought it so well described our moving from gravity to non-gravity, where all is bright, light and sweeping vistas. Pilots tell us you can't escape gravity for long in this world, other than by a steep dive and sharp pull-up. The effect is likened to the top of a swiftly turning Ferris Wheel. You float free and escape those "surly bonds of earth."

After Bruce was diagnosed, but still mobile enough to get about, he decided to do a tandem free-fall skydive from an otherwise perfectly good airplane. Take a look at the wondrous video below. Sure there's an occasional nervous laugh from him. Who wouldn't who could do this? But look at the light in his eyes and the wonder in his face. It's the stuff of good and future times. Or the timeless.

God bless you, Bruce. Such a teacher you have been to so many....

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