Saturday, July 30, 2016

Learning How To Fly



When I was 14, my grandfather (who had been a Navy pilot during World War II) took my family to a small airport in Colorado and told us we were going to learn how to fly an airplane.
Being the over-analyzer that I am, I immediately began to worry about what it was going to be like when I crashed the plane and died. A bit irrational, perhaps, but how could I, a 14-year-old with no experience whatsoever with planes, be expected to know by the end of the day how to fly one? It seemed impossible.
However, he was my grandfather and being one of the sweetest people I know, there was no way I could chicken out of an activity he had loved so dearly. After finding out that I was not going to have to take off with or land the plane, my fear of imminent death was quickly cut in half. I was still, though, quite afraid of what was going to happen next.
After an hour of verbal instruction, we were each assigned a pilot who took us to our respective planes, and before I knew it I was in the air. If my pilot sensed my anxiety, he did not show it. We went up, down, right, left, and every direction in between. After about ten minutes of me gripping onto my seat for dear life, the pilot yelled to me, “Now, when I give you the controls, I will you say ‘your plane’ and you reply by saying ‘my plane’. Got it?”
I nodded.
“Your plane!” the pilot bellowed, beginning to take his hands off the wheel.
“My plane!” I croaked, clutching the joystick as hard as I possible could.
To my amazement, the plane did not begin to smoke and spiral out of control. The joystick felt strong in my hands, and I was suddenly very calm. As I looked out the window and saw the rolling hills and clouds beneath me, I realized something.
I was flying.
It is very hard to put into words what that experience was like. I was effortlessly soaring across a world that only moments before had seemed so full of disappointment and trials, yet now appeared so conquerable. I felt like I could do anything.
What had I been so afraid of?
Even though I now know exactly what flying feels like, I have to admit that attempting to fly in a metaphorical sense is still very daunting to me. The fear of falling short in any endeavor is often enough to cause me to not even try.
Although I am not the prime example of taking flight, there are many noble men and women dotted throughout the history of Brigham Young University who are. As we focus this season especially on the arts at BYU, there are many people who deserve our recognition. They have created legacies of themselves from their ability to not let the chance of failure discourage them from their visions of the future.  
Perhaps one of the greatest examples is Franklin S. Harris, for whom our Fine Arts Center is named. Harris saw the potential BYU had as a university and was a matchless contributor to so much of this school that we enjoy now, including promoting the arts programs and leading BYU to become an accredited university. Looking over the campus early in his presidency of the school, Harris said, "Behold the greatest university campus in all the world — in embryo. Truly the campus is the setting of what will undoubtedly be the greatest university in the world, a place to train for our leaders."[1] I marvel at his ambition, and am incredibly grateful that he had the courage to follow through with his inspired ideas.
Franklin S. Harris was just one of many contributors to the arts at BYU. George Brimhall served through crippling illness as President of the school, while still managing to pull BYU through financial crisis and other adversities. He is now the namesake for the Department of Communications building. Kathryn and T. Earl Pardoe were influential in many arts programs, mainly speech, and donated thousands of plays and musicals to our drama department. Conan E. Mathews, a past dean of the College of Fine Arts, was significant in obtaining a permanent art collection for BYU. Janie Thompson created BYU Young Ambassadors and the Living Legends. Owen S. Rich established KBYU radio and planned for KBYU-television in 1958. We have these people, and many more, to thank for the amazing arts programs and accomplishments of this university.
 Their achievements did not come easily. Each person faced their own difficulties and trials as they worked towards their goals. They were not, however, afraid to do something that I’m sure seemed very daunting at the time. These wonderful men and women could see past the risk of falling and understand just how sweet and fulfilling flying could be. I hope that we can take their courage and tenacity and apply it to our own lives, as we too choose today to take flight.


[1] "Office of the President." Franklin S. Harris. Brigham Young University, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.