Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Lone Eagle

My wife and I have "car books."

When we go places, she drives and I read. The books we share are our car books.

We just finished A. Scott Berg's biography of Charles Lindbergh. We both loved it!

Lindbergh was a complicated man whose accomplishments extended well beyond piloting The Spirit of Saint Louis from New York to Paris in 1927, a feat that brought him a fame unprecedented before that time and unmatched since.

The Lone Eagle forever stained--or put an asterisk next to--his status as hero by his involvement with the America First movement prior to World War II. As the movement's most prominent speaker, seeking to avert US involvement in the war, Lindbergh appeared less than concerned about the menace of Nazi Germany or its persecution of Jews.

Years earlier, as an eighteen year old, Lindbergh left the University of Wisconsin after being a student there for only a year, receiving low marks. Yet he was undeniably brilliant. Within a few years of his 1927 flight, he developed a technology that became an essential element of organ transplants.

He remained active in commercial aviation until just a few years before his death, was an early voice in the environmental movement, provided invaluable service to the US during World War II, did great work in the fields of geography and anthropology, and was an amazing writer.

As we read Berg's book, my wife and I found ourselves drawn to Lindbergh in so many ways. His achievements and intrepidity are amazing.

But the same dogged determination, rationalism, and willingness to stand alone that put Lindbergh in the cockpit of The Spirit of Saint Louis also could make him a tyrant with his children and a verbal brute with his wife.

It also gave him a confidence in his ability to control things that, in the end, seems to have vetoed any thought of a surrendering faith in God.

And so, toward the end of Berg's book, when he describes Lindbergh's determination, in the final days of his life, to fly from New York, where he was hospitalized, to Maui, where he intended to die, I found my throat thickening as I read of the commercial pilots in Hawaii who took off their caps in respect for the pioneer being carried on a stretcher across the airport tarmac.

But I also felt sadness as I read of Lindbergh's passing, uncovered by the grace offered by Jesus Christ that we all will need when we come face to face with God.

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