2022: The year of the pluck
On a crisp spring day in Illinois, my fourth grade teacher Mrs Dare conspired with my mother, my own flesh and blood, to give me an extra batch of homework assignments. They claimed it was just one extra homework assignment, but it turned out the be the largest project I had ever worked on up until that point and perhaps for a few years afterward. It came about when my mother (if I might remind you: my own flesh and blood) turned me in because I had been skipping school by feigning sick every Monday for several months in a row. (Of course, for the rest of my education, I learned to introduce randomness into my school skipping to throw off any “well-meaning” mothers.)
The project assigned was to research paper airplanes: build them, test them, and determine which design was best. I had to learn about the Wright brothers and what made airplanes fly to begin with (hint: it’s magic). The Wright brothers were “just some randos”, as history tells it, that decided they wanted to fly, not really having the slightest inkling of the mysteries they were beginning to unravel.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, when the brothers returned from Kitty Hawk after changing the world forever, most people didn’t really believe them. Their neighbor, one Mr. Webbert, told the brothers:
I know you boys are truthful and if you say you flew through the air in a machine, I believe you. But then, down there on the Carolina coast you had special conditions to help you. Of course you couldn’t do it anywhere else.
Oh yes, of course you boys flew, yes the boys down at the bike shop made a flying machine — I can’t wait to tell the missus. It’s so silly, really, and no more ridiculous in present day. It’s the year two thousand and something, a friend comes to visit me and flies in something called a Boeing 767 from a thousand miles away and I ask him, “How was your flight?” While he prattles on about being delayed or perhaps how he did not enjoy his pretzel like he was hoping (“what were you expecting in a mid-flight pretzel?”, I say) in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “sure you did — if you say you flew through the air in a machine, I believe you.”
The brothers worked on their machine in a nearby pasture filled with cows that bordered a public road. They often had people stop along the road and watch them push their plane down a wooden track, slowly lift off, and fly down the field. The Wrights extended an open invitation to the public and to newspapers to come by at any time and ask questions, or just watch. Slowly, gradually, people started to believe that these guys had built a flying machine.
The story of the Wright brothers is engrossing and magical because they sort of just stumbled into flight by being persistent about their dreams. I don’t wish to downplay the intelligence of the Wright brothers, they were clearly very gifted, but “smarter” people certainly came before them and “smarter” people were at work on the same problem during the same time period. It was their tenacity, their *pluckiness* that put them in the air first.
It’s 2022 daggummit — it’s time to get plucky! Damn every ounce of unpluckiness that runs through these cursed veins! I will not be shackled by my lack of pluck!
In 2022, I shoo the cows out of the way and gaze up at the machine. “This isn’t insane at all,” I tell myself. Onlookers (yourselves included) can’t help but cringe as they watch a man seriously consider clambering aboard. From the gathering crowd I hear a middle aged man’s voice with an old-timey radio accent: “It’ll be the death of him or I’ll eat my hat!” Well grab a fork and knife, gentle-fop, you’ll want some catsup with that Panama boater.
If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.
Mount the machine, grip the canvas. Make 2022 the year you plunge down the track and into the sky.