Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wake Turbulence and Integrity

Landing behind a Boeing 737 in a small plane teaches you a whole lot of things but especially that trailing behind those big aluminum transporters one has to be cognizant of their “wake-turbulence.” I was 5 miles behind one and had projected a landing area just beyond the 737 touch-down spot. Yet as I descended below 200 feet there was a sudden un-commanded roll and pitch, the likes that cause you to open all pores in your skin and sweat in places that you never thought about. Luckily the roll stayed within 60 degrees starboard and the pitch was down 10 degrees. I controlled the feverish display before it could do me harm. I landed the aircraft safely. As the wheels touched the asphalt, the Tower chief chimed in on roll-out, “You okay?” Oh yeah I thought, sure, piece of cake. But the trembling had not even stopped for me to consider uttering the word, “huh?”

“Wake-turbulence,” sounds reasonably innocuous and at the same time full of potential jeopardy. Where it can strike we can barely anticipate but when, is a whole other story. 

Anyway, the Airport Lounge chair was cushy with foam and I sat there for a while rethinking my strategies for the future when aligning myself behind the big boys, you know, them airliners.

My thoughts ventured from aluminum to flesh and blood; us, puny humans.  Do we carry the same wake-turbulence to cause harm to others? Something that needed to be considered with equal gravity. How many times one reads or hears about someone suffering at the hands of another? Yes! that is wake turbulence, the kind that people like Madoff create. There are many others, far more evil in their deeds that have led millions of people to an early grave. The likes of Eichmann and Mengele come to mind. Some do it surreptitiously slowly plotting and planning the windmills of their personal desire to wreak a breezy havoc upon the unsuspecting individual, while others have figured out an end game replete with rewriting history to save their own skins while playing to the tunes of selfish desires.

And then there are those in the once-revered medical field who implant, transplant and replant falsehoods to better their careers only to churn an entire industry into chaos, confusion and splash the color black on the nobility of the scientific profession. The Duke University’s Dr. Potti and his colleagues awash with hubris, in an effort to glean publicity and reap the rewards of an ill-begotten experiment created another blemish on the medical wall, potentially inviting others to say, “If you cannot manage yourself, we will do it for you?” But Dr. Potti had left a wake-turbulence behind him of lies and deceit before; a forged scholarship. For those looking, the signs of an impending calamity were there. They would have seen his kind from miles away. But alas, nature is a constant teacher and the frailty of humans fails to learn from history and therefore is condemned to repeat the same mistakes.

The essence of a person is not in his words but in his deeds. Lest you think this is a man-made event, you would be wrong. Both genders participate in it handsomely.

So what is it in such an individual that makes him tock to everyone else’s tick? Can anyone recede to the same level given the circumstance? Are we all so fallen in our prejudices to do the right thing, that wrong is the path easily traveled?

The despair that comes from such a question is easily answered with one word; character. Temptations are plentiful in daily living. It happens in the remotest villages in Africa and Asia, lest you think this is the disease of a wealthy society. No, children are stolen and placed into bondage, infants are molested for adult purity and women are brutally beaten on the basis of inhuman laws. Men usurp other men’s land and property, killing and plundering as they go, tribes kill one another over height just like the Hatfield 

and the McCoys 

who either due to stolen hogs or in relation to the timber market in 1889 couldn’t get along well together and in the name of righteousness, power, control or some such selfish human failing. To think of such as weakness thus, is to give up on humanity, especially since the majority of people live their lives in quiet desperation never given to such temptations. They toil to receive their rewards and achieve their just potential. But for them, the fabric of society would not hold. The rip sometimes created by those that walk to a purely selfish and socially ignorant beat yields the dark and decay of the human spirit behind the imagined and beautiful tapestry called life.

Character is the overarching benchmark of integrity. It is integrity that leads the engine of this world and life into newer vistas. It is integrity of the sense of self that wounds the greed and self-deception. It is integrity of the soul that keeps the social structure sound.

So then how does lack of integrity create such a powerful wake-turbulence? Actually, both integrity and its lack cause similar wakes. The former is enduring and the latter smacks us in the face to remind us of our failings to learn from. The confluence of deeds of the past is a reminder of the future. Dr. Potti of Duke University fame had forged his resume. That is probably not the only thing to sting him from his past. Future will elaborate more of his inconsistencies. Harvard an equally prestigious University lays claim to a similar debacle; Marc Hauser a primatologist author to several peer-reviewed articles and a best-selling book admitted to “making mistakes.” His students at the university three years ago were raising this specter of untruths and concoctions as he persisted in his dogged determination to publish falsified data.

What about Adolf Eichmann who lived until 1962 when he was executed for crimes against humanity in Israel? He was a high school dropout, tried his stint as a mechanic and then a clerkship without leadership. He was a rudderless ship until he joined the Hitler’s SS and there obligated to the Reich and with sufficient leadership above him to turn him into a mass-murderer. A lesson for adults; always give children a sense of direction in morals and ethics and life.

On the other hand Josef Mengele was a smart quick wit with an intellectually curious mind that ventured often into the folds of eugenics and thus in creating the “ideal human,” allowed him to progress his ideas into committing mass murder under the blanket of his boss, Hitler of equal psychopathic ill repute. Mengele found the ideal setting under an ideal “boss” to experiment his "experiments".

Imagine a person, with a personality, “that would steal a dollar bill from the boss because the boss has all the riches and he (the boss) wont feel the loss of a dollar, mentality,” would do in a large corporation overseeing millions of dollars. Speaking of large amounts of cash brings us to Mr. Madoff. He of “bilking thousands of people off billions of dollars” fame, equally of hurtful and sociopath intent, used every human psychological trick in the book to endear himself to the trusting innocent. From rags to riches to rags is a flaw in the character that defines such people. For eventually the piper will play and one has to pay for such deeds of commission.

All deeds are not painted with the same brush strokes. Each poorly conceived deed devalues society with it’s own wrong. Yet all such actions have two things in common; human frailty of greed and self-service and the inflicted pain upon others.

Integrity is the cement that binds the empathic character. The wake from a person with good character lives on during and after him or her. This integrity of character is the enduring salvation of humanity, to succeed without reprisal. His or her deeds of a person of great integrity survive through time and color the present and the past with joyous memories for future generations.

The implications about any badness drawn concerning the Boeing 737 are false. 

This Boeing 737 aircraft has the safest of all records in flight second to the 747,

but it like other large aircraft has the mechanical trait due to its sheer size and pitch angle of attack on take-off and landing that creates a large vortex enhanced by the newly added winglets. As a matter of fact vortices are not restricted to large aircraft, a small general aviation airplane creates its own wake that would bring chaos to a butterfly. But these wake-turbulences are a necessary frailty of the physics of aerodynamics, no implied motivation.

Unlike aircraft where size matters, in humans however size does not play a part, in our species we watch for the wake-turbulence that follows an individual, revealing the poignancy of his or her character and the durability of their integrity.

A man named George many decades ago, crossed the Potomac and defeated the English colonists to establish the most enduring of concepts; a Republic.

He was offered the monarchy but true to his character and bound by his integrity he declined and stepped down after his term as the leader to live a commoner’s life. An enduring story of an enriched life, the wake from which will capture our imagination and lead us to that "shining city on a hill." so long as we remember history. 

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