Autobiography of Values: Charles Lindbergh

charles-lindbergh-t12762This Christmas my son, Tom, gave me Winston Groom’s terrific new book, The Aviators. Groom paints a detailed portrait of Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, and Charles Lindbergh.

Each was an extraordinary person. Besides their enormous personal courage , they displayed a generosity of spirit in their willingness to improve aviation, make better airplanes and instruments, test pilot experimental designs, and play key roles in aviation and space after the war – all for love of country.

Groom writes with the easy rhythm of a old storyteller about the historical events of the 20th century’s technological transformation, and studies the influences in the development of boy to man, and the personal struggles and triumphs of each  of these iconic American heroes.

In exploring the inner lives of his subjects the author exhibits a good dose of fairness. This was never more true than how he handled the complex life of Charles Lindbergh.

Lindbergh, like Rickenbaker and Doolittle, began with the belief that aviation would change the world for the better. But as Lindberg’s life unfolded he experienced a series of blows that caused him to change his values nearly 180 degrees from where he started.

The first blow came not from his young son’s kidnapping and death (though personally traumatic), but from the American public’s relentless thirst for tabloid sensationalism. Haunted day and night, even suspected of murdering his own son, Charles and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh, fled America to Europe for personal peace.

Groom then follows a complex series of invitations to the Lindberghs by heads of state – including Nazi leaders like Goering who asked him to fly various new planes Germany was turning out by the thousands.

Due to a series of events including a medal from Hitler in honor of his courage and accomplishments, Americans and especially FDR accused him of being a traitor to his own country – which only served to drive the Lindberghs into further isolation from the press.

Lindbergh opposed America’s participation in WWII because he observed first hand the superior technological capabilities of Germany in aviation. He believed America would suffer great losses. This opposition led to Lindbergh plummeting from national hero to villain in the minds of many Americans.

But Lindbergh joined in helping America after Pearl Harbor, even though the President would not let him reenlist (Lindbergh gave up his commission when he fled to Europe). Lindbergh worked for aircraft companies in the states and engineered improvements in aircraft that saved thousands of aviators’ lives and increased the capabilities of the US military.

After the war he was invited to reenlist, and during a top secret mission for the U.S. military, Lindbergh observed the terrible destruction of Europe. of the land, and was among the first eye witnesses to Nazi death camps. These experiences shook him to his core.

While reading Grooms’ magnificent book, I learned that Lindbergh asked the publisher William Jovanovich (a friend and publisher at Harcourt, Brace, and Janvanovich) to edit and publish essays and journal notes from across his life in a book after his death. Lindbergh had just learned he was dying from lymphoma.

The book chronicles the evolution of his ideas about technology and the environment. Lindbergh had become an advocate for wild lands and wildlife. The book that was published is Autobiography of Values. Lindbergh had spent years traveling the world learning cultural values from indigenous tribes.

He noted that in each culture the relationship with the land and with wildlife was very different than in the so-called civilized nations. He concluded that man’s pursuit of science must be guided by other, deeper values – values that relate to our responsibility to the land, wildlife, and each other. He described his journey as one of finding true values. (Read a perceptive book review in the New York Times from 1978.)

Visit the Lindbergh Foundation to see how Reeve Lindbergh – Charles and Anne’s youngest daughter – with notables like Neil Armstrong – has carried the traditions of her parents into the 21st century by establishing awards and collaborations supporting, among many exciting initiatives, development of an electric plane. The intent is to fly a plane from NY to Paris but with no gas! Explore the website to learn about many visionaries carrying the flame of innovation but with a new, informed set of values.

Thanks, Tommy. This gift given to honor your grandfather (a WWII bomber pilot) will always hold an important place in my heart. Its also a great read that I know I will return to again and again.

Carl Sandburg, Come Back!

When I was 18-21 I studied American Literature and Poetry at East Tennessee State University. Poems like Chicago, The People, Yes and others still reverberate in my memory for their raw American soulfulness.

PBS has aired a wonderful, insightful biography about his life and work and how each reflected American history. He created out of the clay of the common people and the earthiness of American landscapes poetry that has more dimensions than any I have encountered since.

Sandburg’s people and places show how we came to be who we are, how we shape the land, and it shapes us; how we love, work and struggle. Here is a site with many of his works in audio.

Turn off the Tube. Enjoy a Sandburg feast! It will do your soul good. I did mine.

Among Our Children Are Peacemakers in the Making

Mandela BookFor the past week I have enjoyed listening to Conversations with Myself – a personal memoir of Nelson Mandela’s life, loves, and struggle for freedom. Learning about the interior lives of great people is part of my personal practice to help me keep my compass on True North. I purchase audio books so that I can listen on my way to and from work, on a road trip, or as I do mundane chores at home.

Conversations is filled with Mandela’s personal reflection on the formative times of his life beginning as the eldest son of a tribal chief. He describes the African Veld, the grasslands of his homeland: the blue mountains lining the golden grassland, the hot summers and mild winters with thunderous rain. He spent many hours of his childhood listening to his elders and observing how decisions were made collectively among them. Mandela’s father planned for his son to become chief and marry a woman chosen for him. But when that time came he left for the urban core of South Africa where he studied at university and became an activist, an understudy of prominent social leaders in the movement for freedom.

I was impressed by the dignity of Mandela, how he respected even his enemies and did not judge any man or woman, friend or foe: he stresses that all men and women are human complete with their strengths and weaknesses. He always plays to the strengths, the goodness in everyone he met including his jailors. He was criticized for this by fellow activists who felt he was too forgiving of his enemies.

This morning I was reflecting on something Mandela advises: once you set your mind on a high goal, never waver from it; no matter what happens in your life, stay on course keeping that goal ever before you….I think about him because I gained an emotional sense of this great man listening to the story over these days including a long drive of 7 hours – an immersive experience that will stay with me for some time.

It occurred to me that among us are children like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr, Gandhi, Wangari Maathai – who were just ordinary kids. We can all name many across the world whose lives changed entrenched injustices and policies. They made the world a better place to live. They are among us now as children. Therefore we should treat every child as a precious gift, providing safety, love, and encouragement for them for they are the Peacemakers come to make this human world better, safer, more compassionate, enlightened, and just.

Suffer the little children to come unto to me, said Jesus, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven (Luke18:16).

How we treat our children – and by our I mean all children among us – reflects on our own character and intelligence. Among these are the best of us and so they need to grow up with warmth, clothing, good food, shelter, love, humor, opportunities to learn and develop their God-given talents, and a community’s and nation’s unwavering support and love. How well are we doing? How many potential Peacemakers die too early from starvation or brutality? How many never reach their potential through no fault of their own. What talent, love, creativity are we missing?

There is a wonderful book that I have read and reread many times from Native America, written by T.C. McLuhan: Touch the Earth. In its pages there are beautiful descriptions of the care given to raising children, from womb to adulthood. Many tribal spokespersons describe how much care is given to the choice of words and tone of voice adults use when addressing a pregnant mother or a little child. I highly recommend it to readers of this blog.

Please share your thoughts and feelings about the state of children in America and the world with us on this post if you feel moved to do so.

Ann Patchett – This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

For those of you who are Ann Patchett fans, I highly recommend her new book of published essays: The Story of a Happy Marriage. First, for writers she gives invaluable advice by showing readers her own path and the teachers along the way. The essays themselves are small masterworks from which writers can learn much about voice and economy of word. Some are just plain fun (Winnebago) and others heart warming (Rose, a love story about Ann and her dog).

The Ann Patchett universe – the writer and her works – is new to me although I have read State of Wonder and The Patron Saint of Liars. Perhaps the way to know her best is to read This is the Story of a Happy Marriage because it describes many important times and relationships in her life as a person, friend and writer. The second way to know Ann is to visit Parnassus Books in Nashville. The quality of books, the gestalt of the place with all its fans, friends, staff, and occasionally Ann, speaks volumes about what is important to Ann.

Last summer I spent my birthday in Parnassus, loading up on Patchett books and other authors. IMG_1257The store is in a shopping district so be sure to take your GPS or cell phone to find it. Afterward I went downtown town to the Vanderbilt neighborhood and found a lovely restaurant, and later found a gelato shop where I enjoyed a double scoop of Pistachio to celebrate my 68th year on this fine planet. Writers like Ann Patchett make your Earth Walk a soulful journey. Try her new book of essays!

P.S. I highly recommend the audio book read by the author. Well done.

Is Climate Change Causing the Weather Snafu?

Thetemperature-moyenne-annuelle-de-surface-de-l-ocean-global1_r National Science Foundation announced a current research initiative to study the West Pacific ocean’s “chimney.”  This article describes how heating in the  ocean interplays with atmosphere to cause havoc in weather and climate. Its known as the global chimney:


Next week, scientists will head to the region to better understand its influence on the atmosphere–including how that influence may change in coming decades if storms over the Pacific become more powerful with rising global temperatures.

Read article here.

Stop Digging a Hole: Reaffirm Long-Term Unemployment Benefits!

The Department of Labor Secretary addressed the importance to extending long term unemployment benefits at this point in the recovery of the national economy. Read below:

What’s New

Reaffirming the Importance of Long-Term Unemployment Benefits

In a Dec. 24 interview with the Baltimore Sun, and on a conference call three days later with two-dozen reporters from across the country, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said “it would be literally unprecedented” if Congress fails to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that provides benefits to long-term jobless Americans. Perez said that Congress approved the program with broad bipartisan support in 2008, when the U.S. unemployment rate was 5.6 percent. The current unemployment rate is 7 percent. He added, “The hole that this Administration inherited in the Great Recession was a deep one. And when you’re in a hole, you stop digging. We must maintain these emergency benefits in order to continue climbing our way back to a fully healthy economy.” Perez also noted that when Congress reconvenes on Jan. 6, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring up legislation to extend unemployment insurance and move it toward a vote. “Congress can do the right thing in the new year and renew this program,” said Perez. “It will help people who want to be employed. It will help families keep going. It will help create economic growth for the nation.”

Read the Interview
Listen to the Press Conference Call
Read the Blog Post

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