Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Last Time We Worked Together

I don't discuss religion and spirituality with many people, because it's a very personal thing, and people can get upset if presented with viewpoints contrary to theirs. That said, from an intellectual perspective, I really don't understand atheism. I can fathom where an agnostic comes from, but it almost seems that atheists have faith that there is no God. Hm. So, if we had no microscopes, would atheists have faith that amoebas didn't exist?

I feel prompted to write this because of recent blog entries by Bob and Michael. It's a bit of a departure for me, because I really don't enjoy arguing, and it seems the fastest way to get the ire up of folks is to bring up religion. (Politics, too.)

But then, there is religion, and then there is spirituality, ey?

I believe in God/The Supreme Being/A Higher Power because I've sometimes felt a certain presence in my life in profound ways. Not often, but when it's happened, the reality of it has hit me between the eyes. And, while organized religions tend to leave me with more questions than answers (not necessarily a bad thing), I believe that life goes on after we leave this earthly plane.

One day in 1991, while flying offshore in California, we were trying to get a man off of an offshore oil platform who had a family emergency. The ceiling and visibility were varying from barely at instrument approach minimums to zero-zero. We'd waited for three hours for the weather to pick up enough to allow us to legally dispatch the helicopter.

We made three missed approaches, seeing no hint of the platform through the fog at our required three-quarters of a mile. But, the weather observer informed us each time that the visibility had picked back up, thus making it legal for us to try again.

I felt a presence with me that day, and I've never flown that well in my life, before or after. I felt absolutely energized in a strange and wonderful way. I didn't feel just "in the zone." No, I felt more as if I'd entered another realm.

We had fuel for one last attempt when we made it into the platform. Roger, the guy I was flying with, could only say, "Damn, Johnson." (From him, that was praise bubbling over.) The man got on board, and we climbed back through the fog and headed toward Santa Barbara Airport.When we leveled out, that feeling of having a presence with me departed. I felt deflated, spent. Also, although I felt relieved that our sole passenger would soon reunite with his family, I felt sad.

The offshore weather observer called us while we were enroute. "Good job, guys. The weather is back to zero-zero. I can't even see the water from my office." We wouldn't make another offshore flight that day due to the weather.

When I got into the office, my mom called. My dad had died that morning, suddenly, of a heart attack.

It took less than an hour to drive from the flight line in Santa Barbara to my parents' place in Oxnard, but it seemed longer. I cried. I wasn't ready to lose my dad. Like too many fathers and sons, we'd waged a quiet war with each other during my teenage years, and while our relationship had evolved into one more harmonious, we hadn't fully made peace.

"We always got along best when we worked together." That was my last thought before walking into my parents' house.

I can't offer concrete evidence that life goes on after we "die." But, I don't just suspect that there is such a thing as a soul. Nor do I believe that there is a soul. Nor do I have faith that there is a soul.

No, I know that there is a soul. I know of it because of that particular morning in 1991, the last time I worked with Dad.


Redlefty said...

Excellent, Hal.

Although religion/spirituality is often an explosive topic, I honestly don't see how anyone could get their ire up from this writing.


David said...

Right on Lefty, nothing remotely offensive here.
I have my own beliefs and disbeliefs. One thing I do believe is, To Each His Own.
Hal, I have felt my Father on the rare occasion. It is a warm and comfortable feeling.
Write On Hal,

Bob Barbanes said...

If indeed "religion" is an explosive topic, then perhaps we should separate it and focus on spirituality. Maybe that would be less volatile.

However, I'm not afraid of offending anyone by sharing my beliefs. It's no big secret, nor should it be. Like-minded people (i.e. those who believe in God) will not be offended and in fact may relish the opportunity to share their faith with me. And hey, when it comes to testimonies of faith, like Ross Perot I'm all ears!

Atheists/agnostics/Scientologists/satan worshippers may be offended, but I do not care. I will not try to "force my beliefs" on them, but I would be remiss if I held back and did not at least tell them of my experiences with my faith and how it has enriched my life. If the atheist wishes to regale me with tales of how atheism/agnosticism has similarly enriched or improved his life or bettered him as a person, again, I'd like to hear it. I don't deny my skepticism, but I like to think that I can keep my mind open.

Great post, Hal. It is those very experiences which give us...well...faith that there's more to life than just "this." Let's hear more.