Leaving on a Jet Plane
Tom Brackett is one of the people I most love and respect in this world. He is a minister within the Episcopalian tradition. He is also a free spirit. His creativity makes me laugh and cracks me open, pretty much each time we are together. There are some people that at the end of the day you just give thanks for. Whether to god, the gods, the stars in the sky, the void, or just in your own heart. Tom is one of those people for me.
Below is a post from his Facebook presence, as well as a follow-up reflection. I love it all. That it comes from a a dream. That it points to vision, yearning for the vast and endless. That it creates such a profound and contemporary sense of sorrow and possibility — a 757 meant to fly, yet pulled from one end of the runway to another.
One morning, not long ago, I awoke from a vivid dream that has really stayed with me. The day before, several of us were exploring that Antoine St Exupery quote that says, “”If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”I guess it stayed with me.
In this crazy dream, a few of us were hiking out of a lush forest – so thick that we could hardly see five feet in front of our faces. A little time passed and soon we came to a broad clearing. As we stepped into it, we could hear beautiful singing and chants – the sounds of children and happy people. As we left the forest, we could also smell fresh asphalt and, just over the rise, a brand new runway stretched off into the distance, shimmering in the heat. On this end of the runway sat a shiny new Boeing 757. As I watched, happy people began climbing the jetway stairs into the open doorway. They were dressed beautifully and the conversations sounded joyful, even from that distance. We watched as the last passengers came up the trail, loaded their luggage into the cart and joined the rest of the passengers already seated. We could see them through the windows as they found their seats and one of them closed the door. We could hear them singing traveling songs, even with the doors closed. What follows astonished me!
While I watched, twelve strong men emerged from the woods with coils of thick ropes over their shoulders. They walked ceremoniously to the jet, threw their ropes over the wings and with great flourish, they began singing and chanting – heaving and swaying – living into a ritual they’d obviously perfected. Within a few moments, the beautiful new jet began to roll . . . ever so slowly. From inside the jet there arose a cheer – a joyful outcry of celebration. Even in my dream, I noticed that my mouth was hanging open – in shock! I watched as these twelve pulled this jet into a jogging roll down the runway until it stopped all the way at the other end. Then, much to my wonder, everything I had just witnessed was repeated, but in reverse. A tiny figure rolled the stairs up to the open doorway and the same beautiful people emerged – still singing – still grateful and so intentional. They walked to the back of the jet and retrieved their baggage from the cart hitched to the real wheels. They joyfully and appreciatively found their way down the path to that dayeir errands and their day’s work.
Then, as the dream’s day ended, I watched as the same 12 men returned this jet ever so slowly back to my end of the runway. It now towered over me – a beautiful and massive creation with incredible potential. The same lovely people disembarked, gathered their baggage, sweetly said their goodbyes and disappeared down the path towards their homes. In my dream, the sun set and the sky went dark. The sounds of night descended and I could see the moonlight glinting on the wings of the silent jet. In that moment, I woke up and wrote this out, as best I can remember it.
 Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French Pilot, Writer and Author of ‘The Little Prince’, 1900-1944)
Just finished a conversation with friends about this dream. On reflection, what stands out to me is that so many of our trained religious leaders get their version of a pilot’s license only to steer their 747 from one end of the runway to the other, year after year. They will privately confess that they dream of starting those jets and and actually soaring over Antoine St Exupery’s “vast and endless sea.” They know there are probably plenty of others back in the passenger compartment who yearn, as well. Question they ask is usually some version of “How do we renegotiate the terms of our deal? Most of my passengers climbed on to ride in safety and gratitude but only to the other end of the runway. And besides, what would we do with all that baggage dragging along behind?” Those are very personal questions and only to be asked and engaged, jet by jet! Nonetheless, so many of my colleagues are clear and courageous. They are renegotiating the terms of what it means to be a faith community that soars. They are shifting expectations, lending courage, compassionately coaching folks to fasten their seatbelts and get ready for the ride of their lives. I honor you Peggy Holman, Chris Corrigan, Caitlin M Frost, Tenneson Woolf and Teresa Posakony