Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Fate (is the Hunter)

After that lengthy hiatus on Office Train posts, it's back to reality and business as usual (or as usual as it ever gets) at the Wayward Home.  As I so often say when I ease the throttle out on another we go again.

Believe it or not...I read more than I write and sometimes I actually have a minute or three to do that very thing.  My favorite book is still a less-than-well-known autobiography called " Fate is the Hunter "and my old softcover copy is now very faded and dog-eared from being read over and over.  It's the memoir of an airline and transport pilot who flew in the early days of commercial aviation, beginning before World War II and on into the '50s.  Ernest K. Gann, I know is not a literary giant in the sense of a Dickens or a Tolstoy but his story suits me just the same.  As a much-loved book should, it speaks to me and makes me think.  So what if it isn't a 'classic'...

I'm not much of a highbrow type anyway I guess.  I chewed my way through "The Inferno" a while back, mostly just to say I had.  Talk about a workout.  "Moby Dick"  was a tough go as well.  It turned out I actually liked it but I had to work pretty hard to digest that many chapters and it's not the kind of thing I can just pick it up and read a few paragraphs of before I pull the covers up and call it a day. 
I often do exactly that with "Fate"; find it on the nightstand or pick it off the floor where I dropped it last time, open it to a random page and start in.  It's like a comfortable old chair where I can spend some time and fall asleep with the light on.  There's no famous, epic lines;  "To the last, I grapple with thee..."; no deep metaphor; no CliffsNotes...just a story.  And a good one.  Thunderstorms, crummy landings, the Hump, malaria, ice, the Taj Mahal, DC-2s and C-87s...I won't re-tell it all here but it's a story I can relate to, even though I've never been a pilot.  Read it someday and you'll see.  You might see something about me in there too as you go along.

One of my favorite passages is in the last chapter:

"Tell me now...since you are older and wiser, by what ends does a man ever partially control his fate?  It is obvious from the special history of our kind that favorites are played, but if this is so, then how do you account for those who are ill-treated?  The worship of pagan gods, which once answered all this, is no longer fashionable.  Modern religions ignore the matter of fate.  So we are left confused and without direction.
Let us admit, then, that the complete answer may only be revealed when it can no longer serve those most interested.
Perhaps we should hide in childlike visions of afterlife wherein those pronounced good may play upon harps and those pronounced evil, stoke fires.
...At least let us admit that the pattern of anyone's fate is only partly contrived by the individual."

Ernest K. Gann, "Fate is the Hunter"

There's an idea in there that says something to me.  I haven't figured out quite what it is or what it means yet...but if I leave that book on the nightstand long enough, I just might.


Trailer Park Cyclist said...

Mr. Gann was the real deal. And what a life!

The Inferno is one.

Moby Dick? I've read it so many times that it is like a deep woods I know really well. I think the joke of the book (and Melville was a true joker) is that the novel itself is something of a White Whale. Plus he was getting paid by the word.

Wayward said...

Hi TJ! Hell, if I was getting paid by the word, I'd do a War and Peace sequel as a blog entry! LOL

I know I was thinking about chewing my own leg off after the first go at Moby Dick. It did get easier as I got further along. I'm working my way along some other great books in my old age but seem to have this time problem...

Glad you're still hanging it's your turn again!