The Back Page – Don’t Forget

The Back Page

Don’t Forget

Forty-six years and one day ago, Eastern Flight 401 took off from JFK. By 11:30 p.m. the plane was
approaching Miami. Its First Officer lowered the landing gear. But the green light indicating that the gear
was down and locked did not illuminate. The Captain ordered the plane climb to 2,000 feet, and fly an
autopilot holding pattern while the crew tried to figure out what was wrong.
Unfortunately, the captain unwittingly nudged the yoke, initiating a gradual descent. When the plane
had dropped to 1,750 feet, an altitude warning chime sounded. But the flight engineer was not at his seat
to hear it—he was too busy fiddling with the indicator light problem. So Flight 401 continued circling the
Everglades, gradually dropping lower and lower.
Nothing wrong with the jet—it was only 4 months old. Nothing wrong with the crew—its first
officer had logged 5,800 hours of flight time; the captain 29,700. But in focusing all their attention on a
burned-out bulb they neglected Rule One—“Don’t Forget to Fly the Plane.” Finally the pilot noticed and
blurted, “Hey, what’s happening here?” But it was too late. Flight 401 crashed into the Everglades, killing
101 of the 176 on board.
It can happen in places other than planes. We get caught up in trivia and neglect the necessary. In
marriages. Men, with all our multi-faceted responsibilities, do we forget Rules One and Two—
“Husbands, love your wives” and “Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”?
What did Jesus say were Rules One and Two for all of us? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
soul, mind, and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.” What is our business here at Second Cape? “To
know the Lord and make him known.” Or, to look at it a little differently, “Our business is Jesus, and our
business is love.”
Yes, details are important and we mustn’t neglect them. Landing gear is essential. But crews can
check and lower that gear without crashing their planes in the process. May 2019 be for us as individuals,
and for Second Cape as a spiritual family, a year in which we Don’t Forget to Fly the Plane.

The Back Page – Quiet

The Back Page


Of all forms of pollution, that of noise is little discussed. Rattles, roars, and inane talk are ubiquitous
—roads, waiting rooms, factories, homes. God forbid that we should ever encounter quiet! Then we might
have to be alone with ourselves and think.
Therefore institutions install monitors and Muzak; individuals addict themselves to electronics and
earbuds. Deep down, many people don’t like themselves, but would rather not admit that. So they
distract themselves with constant muttering to avoid facing important, ultimate issues. An anodyne, a
narcotic, an escape.
Don’t get me wrong. Good music is one of life’s joys. But music is best when attended to, so that its
nuances can be appreciated, rather than demoted to dulling distraction or distant drone.
“Clamour shall clean put out the voice of wisdom,
The printing-presses with their clapping wings,
Fouling your nourishment. Harpy wings,
Filling your minds all day with foolish things,
Will Tame the eagle Thought: till she sings
Parrot-like in her cage to please dark kings.”
Or consider Screwtape: “Music and silence—how I detest them both! Ever since our Father entered
Hell, no square inch of infernal space has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all
has been occupied by Noise—the grand dynamism which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing
scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise. The melodies and silences of
Heaven will be shouted down in the end.”
By contrast, which way does scripture incline? He leads me beside quiet waters. I have calmed and
quieted myself. The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. In
quietness and trust is your strength. The effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of Yahweh. Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and
get some rest. Pray that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness.
It is healthy to be still and know that God is God, to regularly climb the mountain, as did Jesus, and
be alone with our Father.

The Back Page – Lights

The Back Page


Monday morning 5:40. Rain arrives in four hours; sun rises in one. Any beach time today must be
“But what will I see?” babbles my brain, as I rumble east on Roosevelt Blvd., dew drenching the
windshield. Images flash of others who imagine anyone up walking at this hour to be odd.
The sound of surf greets my ear as the truck door opens. There is plenty to see. Sea on left and sand
on right are awash in the silvery sheen of a three-quarters moon, ahead and to the right, struggling
successfully to peer through clouds. She wears a halo. A bright (but blurry) Venus glows to the left
between two cloudy arms. Little light and less color, though, from the sky itself.
Pillows of foam mark the high-water line. The few gulls are flat black flapping shapes against the
sky. The waves are steady though smallish. No thunderous crashings today; only an ongoing rumbling.
Untrodden sand. No one else is here. Not even fishermen, staring seaward, oversized pickups
stashed behind, rods rammed in the sand. Do any of them ever see the ocean in which they stand, or
observe the sun in the sky? Do they hear the waves and pipers, taste the salty tang? Or are their senses
sated with strings stretched seaward in hopes of hooking a halibut?
Skies brighten as I walk. Color slowly re-enters the world. Patches of sky glow blue and yellow. The
sand grows more tan than gray. The birds take on hues and a third dimension. Along with their cries and
surf sounds, Handel’s “Comfort Ye My People” echoes in my mind. Beautiful thoughts and sensations all.
Many folks would not appreciate any of this. After all, humanity has invented Electric Lights, with
which we can banish unnatural nighttime darkness. Lights allow us to sit wakeful into the wee hours,
watching on screens images of actors pretending to be someone else, parroting a writer’s words,
pirouetting as a director decrees. This is the Season of Lights to boot, and we have all kinds—a spectrum
of shades and strengths. No doubt artificial lights are okay, but is it not nice once in a while to enjoy the
original Greater to rule the day and Lesser to rule the night?