The following story was inspired by seeing one too many internet memes about “relationships and love” and reading one too many stories about flying centered on “electronics and regulations.” I have no particularly profound insight into love and flight, but good God, we can all do better than the trash that is littered into our lives as alleged wisdom.
Above, Vincent Van Gogh’s The sower, painted in Arles France in June of 1888. He wrote his brother Theo to express the great difficulty, and the emotional cost of his pursuit of cutting edge art: “You risk your life on it.” Van Gogh’s life took place at the intersection of extreme creativity and insanity. If he could have been offered a cure, he would not have accepted it, for art was his Moral Purpose. In the year and a half he spent in Arles he painted perhaps 500 pieces. When it was over, he shot himself. He was 37.
OK, as simply as I can express it: Your Moral Purpose could be an Art, a Passion, a Cause, a Service, anything that will pass this simple test: There is nothing anyone could offer you to have your fidelity to it end. Van Gogh wasn’t going to stop painting, Gandhi wasn’t going to leave India a colony, and Lindbergh wasn’t going to stop flying. When you discover your Moral Purpose, you will have simultaneously found something worth living for, and worth risking your life on.
The desire to have a Moral Purpose is internal to humans. On the outside, powerful forces are opposed to your search for individual meaning. In past centuries, society needed slaves, and today it demands consumers. No one ever discovered their Moral Purpose while accepting either of those functions. Flight itself, has the capacity to be one’s Moral Purpose, pursued as an art form, something you could both seek to master and be in awe of it’s beauty at the same moment. You are doing this when you learn a new skill or develop a deeper understanding, when you effortlessly fly a perfect power off pattern at sunset. A guy looking for a bargain on avionics or debating ADSB crap isn’t finding a meaning, he is just being a consumer. He will find flying to be an expensive hobby or pass time. This is why you should always approach flight as a calling, it is the only hope of finding a real reward in it.
If you find a moral purpose, and live with fidelity to it, people may not agree with it nor even understand it, but inherently individuals will respect you. If they have their own purpose, it need not be the same for this to happen. Charles Lindbergh and Miles Davis probably wouldn’t have been friends, but they would have had something more valuable: mutual respect. Notice how people wallowing in consumerism have only the uber wealthy to envy and worship. An individual with a Moral Purpose respects and admires a human like John Glenn, because to Glenn, being an American wasn’t a matter of birth, it was his Moral Purpose, one which “Meant more than life itself.”
On the topic of Love,There is only one thing that matters, Respect. I see memes about ‘relationships’ and I want to vomit, because that is a condition two consumers without Moral Purpose might find themselves in, and a ‘successful relationship’ isn’t Love, it is just a negotiated position of perks for compromise, another consumer product. I have a young friend who would essentially give anything to be in a ‘successful relationship.’ I advised her to spend time alone until she discovered something about herself, something she would not abandon for anyone, her Moral Purpose. Only then would she know respect, the vital component in A love beyond this life.
This isn’t new-age BS nor weak words, it’s basic 2,500 year old Stoic Greek Philosophy. If you question its value, It was the creed of James Stockdale – Philosophy strong enough to allow him to resist 2,700 consecutive days as a POW being tortured. His Moral Purpose was his service and shipmates, and eventually even his captors and tormentors understood that he could not be ‘purchased’ at any price. Beaten, starved and dressed in rags, he had more dignity and serenity, and deserved more respect than any billionaire who is merely the king of consumers.
There is a false temptation to look at this as “all or nothing” to give in to lesser company and smaller ideas and a diminished life, because you are not willing to discard every comfort to pursue a passion. Because Van Gogh’s path in Arles was to spend 465 days on the absolute cutting edge of his potential as a human being, doesn’t make the only other option spending the next 40 or 50 years as a pure consumer.
The actual question is how many of the remaining hours in 2017 can you invest in treating your passion for creating and flying as your Moral Purpose? If at any point in this year you catch yourself thinking “homebuilding sure costs a lot” the reaction that should spring from your mind is to question; Why you are accepting so little in return for your investment? To change the equation, stop looking at flight as just another hobby or consumer experience. Start treating it as your Calling, a worthy Moral Purpose, something which expresses the value of your life as an individual.
9 Replies to “‘Your Moral Purpose’”
Very insightful. I shared this with my 17 and 21 year old daughters with the admonition to figure this out while they’re sill young so they can have a rewarding, fulfilling, self-confident life that is immune to the persuasion of consumerism. Thanks for sharing.
Well considered; well said.
This is the “it” when people ask if they “get it”.
One word! BEAUTIFUL!!!!!
I’m so old I had to Google what a ‘meme’ was…well ok my son did it for me. BTW he is my moral purpose.
Bob I think everyone who sees you together understands he is your MP, and demonstrating to him from his earliest days how a person can accept a purpose but also enjoy a creative beautiful endeavor like flight, is something great to share with him, that it is his birth right and expectation to enjoy the same freedom in his own life.
WW: You just keep getting better at this writing thing. 🙂 I also sent this to my son.
This was posted only days after I began my own Pietenpol/Corvair project. I just discovered it.
Symbolized by my airplane is my dogged determination to keep going. Serious health challenges in my family have not overwhelmed me, at least in part due to my devotion to continuing this project. In a few moments when my hope weakened, I have returned to the idea that I should just keep building. I’m not sure if this resilience is a result of my airplane, or the airplane is the expression of the attitude learned and developed elsewhere. What does it matter?
Life is good!