Note from Victoria: I would like to dedicate this piece, written several weeks before David Howell’s death, to his memory.
So, in the movie “Air Force One” Harrison Ford has this great line. For those who haven’t seen or don’t recall the film (which is pretty forgettable, all in all), he plays the U.S. president. His plane has been taken over in flight by a band of Russian terrorists, who have killed the pilot and co-pilot and corralled most of the passengers. But the president has managed to elude them, and he spends the movie trying to retake the plane.
His backstory is that he’s a former military pilot. At one point, he makes contact with a member of his staff who’s on board, and the two of them strategize ways to defeat the Ruskies. The aide asks him whether, if they can overpower the terrorist who is now piloting the jumbo jet, the prez can fly it.
His response, which, as a lapsed pilot, I probably found especially funny, is:
“Fly? Yes. Land? No.”
How in the world does that relate to High Cove? (No, I’m not going to propose that we build a community landing strip — although I certainly wouldn’t object.) It’s just that after 60 years of living I’ve got a vague sense that I’ve finally figured out, more or less, how to fly this plane. And it occurs to me that, rather than congratulate myself and settle in at cruising altitude, it’s just about time to get serious about learning to land it.
That is, to learning to die.
I offer this confession by way of articulating, as Tracy and I prepare to join the community, the overall shape of my intention. What this undertaking looks like, what form it takes, what byways and dead ends it will take me down, I haven’t the foggiest. (Interesting side question: Why is death so punny?)
Fates willing, I’ll have 30 or maybe even 40 years to do the work. And High Cove is where I’ve chosen to do it, because this community seems like good, fertile ground for such an inquiry.
I don’t expect it to be a maudlin quest, or even necessarily a painful one. I’m pretty sure that living deeply and as fearlessly as possible is a prerequisite. So, as best I can, I’ll start there. I’m pretty sure that being vulnerable is a required course, not an elective. And for some reason it strikes me tonight that the trick is not so much to have no regrets as to regret like hell the things I do regret — for a time, anyway.
I’ve just finished a four-day yoga retreat at Kripalu (blame that for this burst of introspection, if you like). So I’ll close with another of my favorite lines, which is from the Bhagavad Gita and is displayed in huge type on one of the walls there. It’s this:
“Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.”
So, here goes …