From The Tech Herald, Stevie Smith - May 15 2008
Yves ‘Fusion Man’ Rossy, a commercial airline pilot from Switzerland, has this week quite literally taken the aviation plunge by plummeting headlong toward death in the Rhone valley while strapped onto little more than a homemade jet-powered wing.
…48-year-old Mr. Rossy…threw himself and his rigid jet-wing contraption from a perfectly serviceable aircraft this Wednesday as gathered crowds and throngs of press watched on from below.
The result of five years of training, Mr. Rossy’s maiden flight before a public audience saw him plunging through a controlled freefall into a more gentle glide before then powering up four jet turbines to provide necessary propulsion.
Once under his own power, and using careful body positioning for control, Mr. Rossy regained lost altitude before drawing appreciative gasps from the crowds by performing spectacular figure eight loops and an impressive 360-degree roll. He also accelerated his jet-wing to a speed of 186mph…
After five minutes of controlled flight, Mr. Rossy and his jet-wing touched down safely on an airfield close to the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, at which point the clearly thrilled pilot exclaimed that the experience had been “absolutely excellent.”
Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
~ Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero ~
Have you ever dreamed you could fly?
Not on a plane, of course, but flying free on your own? Maybe with arms outstretched like the wings of a bird, maybe just floating effortlessly above the world?
Flying was one of my favourite childhood dreams. I remember the feeling of soaring through the corridors of my school, through shopping centres, over the streets of my town. It was a feeling of freedom; I was free from the tie of gravity and all the challenges of that earth-bound life. I so wanted to fly.
A few years ago, we pulled out some of the ancient 8mm films that my grandfather had taken of our family. As I watched one of those scratchy old films, I saw myself as a little boy. I was running around with my cousin. Well, she was just running. I was doing something else. As I ran, I was spinning my arm around wildly. I had completely forgotten, but now it all came back to my in a rush of memory. My arm was my propeller. I was ready for take-off! I was determined to fly. At that point, I would have done just about anything to get into the air.
It’s probably a good thing that were no cliffs or tall towers nearby.
Well, try as I might, my efforts never got me off the ground without the help of a lot of technology, but those dreams and the feelings of freedom and exhilaration have stayed with me. And the dream of flight - a dream that has been in human hearts for millennia - has been anything but fruitless. Airplanes, helicopters, hang-gliding, spacecraft… And now, ‘Fusion Man’ flying freely like a bird with his jet-powered wing brings all of us even closer to the realisation of that dream.
It’s just a dream though… Some would warn us not to dream. The guard on the bridge in Vienna was a realistic man. He knew that luminous visions and dreams of treasure should be ignored. Why waste your time and energy on dreams?
And don’t those compelling dreams only make life harder to take? If our hearts are set on the dream of a more just, loving world, doesn’t it just put the injustice and hatred around us more difficult to accept?
When we use the word “dreamer,” it carries with it a recognition of vision, or leadership, or creativity. We usually mean someone who lives with their head in the clouds – someone who is impractical and out of touch with reality.
Well, I confess to being a dreamer. Have my dreams come true? Sometimes. But more often I have pursued a vision only to find disappointment at the end of the road. But, like the man from Prague in our story this morning, the dream always took me somewhere. It is said that “when you reach for the stars, you may not get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud, either.” If I have energy, enthusiasm, and passion – if I jump out of bed in the morning ready to face the day – it is because I am following a dream. Maybe the treasure is not under a bridge in Vienna, but I would never have found it in my own house without taking that journey.
If I say four words, you will probably recognise the source immediately. “I have a dream.” Even in this country, those words have the power to stir our hearts. When Martin Luther King Jr. said in that remarkable voice of his: “I have a dream today”, he stirred a nation. “I have a dream today.” “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” “I have a dream today.”
King’s dream became a shared dream, and the force of it began to change minds and change the world. In that dream, we recognised the possibility of a different future - a world of justice and equality. It was very different from the shape of the world then. It is still not the shape of the world now, but it is a vision that we can almost see and hear and taste through the fog of uncertain years to come. It is a vision that can draw us forward.
Many of our dreams will not come true. Fewer still will be realised in our own lifetimes. This does not make them unworthy of us. What would be the point of dreaming if everything could happen immediately and if it were all easy. In the poem we heard earlier, Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was later assassinated for challenging El Salvador’s tyrannical rulers, reminds us that we are “prophets of a future not our own.”
We dream dreams of the future and we plant and tend seeds so that those visions may someday yield towering trees of love, and freedom, and justice. Although he did not live to see it, Romero’s dream of human rights helped to create the environment where those seeds could flourish.
“In the long run” said Thoreau, “men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.” The Hebrew Scriptures offer a more severe warning “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Without a dream to guide us, we are as aimless as a traveller without a destination. We may move about frenetically - expending energy and time here and there - but ultimately, we will achieve only exhaustion and cynicism.
“To accomplish great things”, said French author Anatole France, “we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”
Dreams and visions change our view of the world. Like a pair of magical glasses, they permit us to see the world not just as it is, but as it could be. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince put it this way “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
Once I asked a sad-looking man about his hopes for the future. “Hope?” he said. “Look at this world. It’s in terrible shape. How can I have hope? I just want to stay safe.” I had to agree with him. If you can see the world only the way it is – if you can not look to a greater vision for the future – where can hope come from?
Hope grows from the rich soil of our crazy, naïve, fantastic, unrealistic, idealistic, dreams for the future. Is there any other kind of dream worth having? Let us be dreamers, creating tomorrow in our hearts so that we can create it in the world. Hold an inspiring dream in your mind and your heart will take flight – soaring on the wings – or propellers – of hope.
At this point, I would like to involve you. Religion has always been about offering a different vision than the one we perceive today with our senses – a vision to guide our work and to bring hope to the hopeless.
This is an important part of our purpose here. If this were a typical religious community, I as the learned cleric might just tell you what your vision should be - perhaps I’d even refer you to the chapter and verse where you could read about it. But, thankfully, we are a different kind of community. Among you, there are many visions and dreams. We come together to share our stories and our wisdom - to spread hope and inspiration. And so now, I would like to invite you to share something of your dreams. What dream do you hold close to your heart? It may be a personal dream - what you want to do or be at some point in your life. It may be a dream for the world, of a future world that is brighter than the one we live in today. It may be a dream for this community itself - what you imagine us becoming and doing in the days to come.
Please stay in your seats. We will begin in silence. As you feel moved to speak, just speak out and say a word or a few words that describe a vision or a dream that you hold for the future.
[A time for sharing our dreams and visions?]
Let us now honour these – the dreams and visions of our beloved community – with a shared time of silence.
Hélder Câmara says this: “When we are dreaming alone it is only a dream. When we are dreaming with others, it is the beginning of reality.” Together, our dreams and visions provide a shape for a new reality and a new future - a future where people walk together, hand in hand, and all may live in peace.