Since I can remember, I have always loved and appreciated anything with wings – birds, butterflies, and especially airplanes; anything to do with aviation. As a small boy growing up in a rural farming area, finding feathers and collecting them was special to me. It connected me to the magic that made the birds soaring above me swoop and fly in graceful circles.
It was with this feeling of joy and amazement of flying creatures that I eventually decided to become an aircraft technician after I had completed college. I was always fascinated with the systems that made airplanes work and I enjoyed working with my hands in a team environment. Even though I was leaving the mental health field that I had gone to university for, there was something that brought me back to my childhood and told me that aviation was indeed my calling.
Not surprisingly, everything about aircraft maintenance school was fun and fascinating for me, and I really ate it up, learning about how airplanes are built and all the complex systems that make them work. I received excellent grades and graduated while having fun along the way. What this taught me was that when we follow our heart and trust that it is guiding us appropriately, things tend to fall into place and flow without effort, whereas when we go into doubt or fear about what might happen if we do make that heart-based decision, then things do not tend to align or fall into place naturally, as they otherwise would.
After getting the opportunity to work on all kinds of airplanes from small single-engine trainers, to turboprops and corporate jets, all the way up to large Boeing commercial airliners, I have come to some interesting observations. During that time, I was involved in various structural repairs and working on all kinds of aircraft systems that make the whole body of the airplane work. This brought me to the realisation that all airplanes are designed and manufactured in a way that is in a direct correlation to the way the human body is designed and functions.
For instance, the main structure of almost all airplanes is made up of aluminum frames (that wrap around the fuselage), stringers (that run the length of the fuselage), spars that support the wings and tail (they even call the main wing supports ‘ribs’), and metallic or composite skins that cover the wings, fuselage and tail sections, tying the whole structure together aerodynamically. To me this is obviously synonymous to the human skeletal system. There is even insulation that is placed in between these structural members of the fuselage that reminds me of the connective tissue of the human body that wraps around all our internal organs and muscular system. Speaking of muscles, all the hydraulic actuators that move the flight controls and landing gear/brakes are just like the muscles in our body moving our body parts, with the hydraulic fluid and lines in the airplane being like the blood and vascular system we have to move those muscles.
Another observation I have had is that the engines of an airplane are symbolic of the human heart, as they are the driving force that propels the airplane forward and everything else would come to a grinding halt without those engines turning out their incredible power, just as the human heart is the foundation that transfers the energy for everything else to work in the human body. Crawling inside the avionics bay the other day – with its myriad of electronics control modules and miles of wiring wrapping all around to all these black boxes that work their magic to control the navigational, control, and communications systems – made me realise how those control computers are like the various modules within the human brain (like the occipital lobe associated with sight and the temporal lobe with auditory functions, etc.), with all those wires being the nervous system of the aircraft, sending the signals out to make those functions happen in a coordinated and harmonious fashion.
Another thing that I have noticed while working on long term aircraft maintenance projects with a team of mechanics is that the times that strange problems pop up with the airplane – like a hydraulic line suddenly leaking or an autopilot controller failing even though it tested fine five minutes ago – is that these events seem to mirror the state of well-being and level of harmony within the team. It’s as if the airplane’s state of well-being is directly proportional to that of the crew working on it. On several occasions I have witnessed weird things happening in conjunction with internal struggles and emotional angst being displayed by the crew. I don’t feel it is a coincidence at all anymore.
Anyone who has had their personal computer crash on them right when they were stressing out about something could attest to what I am proposing here. It’s all about the energy that we put out that has an effect on electrical and mechanical devices around us. Comparatively, when we have been working in brotherhood and supporting each other without any competition or games being played, the work seems to flow better and the plane develops fewer problems.
Considering the relationships between airplanes and the human body that I have proposed above, sometimes I consider myself an airplane doctor, performing various intricate and delicate surgeries on its structure and systems, removing and replacing damaged components or removing corrosion (which is like a cancer for metal), and diagnosing and troubleshooting certain failures that do not have an obvious cause, as well as administering general preventive maintenance and servicing, such as cleaning areas that lead to corrosion, replenishing engine oils and hydraulic fluid, checking pressures and performing functional checks, etc. The tests that we do are synonymous with the many tests that people do in the medical field, such as blood work and CAT scans, physiotherapy range of motion and strength tests (similar to flight control travel checks), and many others.
For me, airplanes are incredible machines in the way that they can connect and bring together people from all over the planet and make our world feel smaller and more united, seeing that in the end we are all really the same no matter which country we are from. I love the feeling of working together with a team to put back together a huge airliner after a two-month heavy maintenance visit, appreciating the thousands of tasks my fellow mechanics have accomplished. It never ceases to amaze me as we watch this massive machine magically lift into the blue sky, knowing all the work and pieces of the puzzle that had to come together harmoniously to make it happen. It’s in these moments that I am reminded why I love airplanes so much.
Recently a friend used a figure of speech while describing a situation involving an unexpected detail that later turned out to be crucial to the success of their project, but after going unnoticed, caused further disruption and complications to occur. It made me contemplate the meaning and foundation of this now commonly known idiom.
Many people may be familiar with the phrase ‘the Devil’s in the details’, which some claim was originally used by the atheist German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (in German: “Der Teufel steckt im Detail”(1)) and later adopted by many other cultures around the world, although paradoxically the exact ‘details’ of its origin seem difficult to determine. It generally “refers to problems or difficulties that result from the unforeseen nature of unexamined details. It refers to a catch hidden in the details rather than the truth in its abstract sense.”(2) This was indeed the saying used by my friend during our discussion, but after having a feeling that something did not seem right about that phrase (probably stemming from the fact that I personally have never believed in the existence of the ‘Devil’), I decided to do a little digging into the true foundation of this phrase.
What I found confirmed my suspicions, in that the original saying had at some point been morphed into its current variation and lost the essence of its meaning along the way. The expression ‘the Devil’s in the details’ is actually a derivation of the original saying ‘God is in the detail’ which is usually attributed to German/American architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, but more aptly originated from an older German proverb (‘Der liebe Gott steckt im detail’) (3) of an unknown source.
“The idea was that whatever one does should be done thoroughly and the truth, if it exists, is in the details.”(1) This approach invokes the consideration that in every little detail of movement, whether it be in the form of a thought, the spoken word, or physical action, there exists a greater Truth, and that these movements can either heal or harm us as a humanity.
In essence, honouring the original iteration of this phrase that holds God and all that He represents to be in the details of everyday life offers us the opportunity to appreciate not only our divine connection with Him, but how if we allow ourselves to feel it, we can see God’s signature in so many things around us. Take the twinkle in the eye of a young child who is being cheeky and playful, the way the Sun can suddenly emerge from a cloudy sky and cascade its light all around you but somehow leaves the surrounding landscape in the shadows, or how just at the right moment a close friend tenderly puts their hand on your shoulder in a gesture of support when you need it most.
I feel that what we are also talking about here is how we view the word ‘truth’. If it is acknowledged in a favourable sense that we can notice how God expresses His energy in every little detail we observe in Nature (like the gentle flapping of a butterfly’s wings to the infinite complexity of the human body and its inner workings), it also exposes how saying something like ‘the devil is in the details’ suggests that we are avoiding the Truth of a situation or what is being presented to us in life in order to grow and evolve.
An example of this would be how we know alcohol is chemically a poison to human cells, yet we continue to consume it in massive quantities at the great expense of our minds and bodies, with all sorts of social consequences of its usage(4). Or how we have had not one but two ‘World Wars’, and even with the devastating loss of life, infrastructure collapse, torture, and multi-generational psychological damage that ensued during that period, we continue to engage in the very same wars across the globe, and somehow find ridiculous ways to justify their existence.
As I was sitting here in a local café with the intention of doing some writing and not really having anything coming to me, a young gentleman walked up and stopped at the table I was sitting at and said, “It’s really great to be able to work from home, isn’t it?” – as I later found out he actually works as a business analyst remotely from home. After briefly sharing how I actually work night shift as an aircraft technician and was just doing some writing here at the café, we embarked on a beautiful discussion that ranged in topics from living in service instead of for self-gain and developing true purpose in our daily work, to his goal of early retirement/financial freedom and growing a non-profit company that would build schools around the world and what it means to live in a way that puts people first.
We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to stay in touch and meet up again sometime soon. And so I sit here feeling incredibly appreciative and inspired by a young man who was so open that he could literally stop in his tracks and follow his impulse to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, and then express with such honesty and without the usual protection or guard and competition that most men tend to engage in, especially early on in their relationships.
Another thing that this reflected to me was that my new friend felt comfortable enough to engage in this spontaneous, deep conversation because even though I was just sitting there relatively motionless, I was in a ‘movement’ of energy that emanated an openness that held others as equals with understanding and with a sensitivity that was ready to meet another person with that same level of connection without hesitation.
And this brings us to the whole point of this piece, that is, that every little movement that we make during the day can have a profound effect on others, from stopping in our busy day to connect with someone we feel drawn to, or to simply hold others in the same level of care and love that we hold ourselves. This holding can then lead to a positive feedback situation, where we get reflected back to us in the form of life experiences and relationships the reality that we hold for ourselves to be true. So, if we think we are not good enough or only deserve abusive relationships and suffering/hardships, etc. due to low self-worth and past emotional hurts, then that is the reality that will come to fruition. But in the end, we are so much more than those hurts and on the level of our soul we maintain an untouchable and unbreakable love that can surpass even the most intense levels of abuse and suffering that we currently find on the planet. We just have to surrender to the knowingness that this is indeed the truth.
So if I go to work and start throwing my tools around in anger or frustration, that sends a signal to others to back off and will limit our ability to be open and connect deeply in Brotherhood while we work together. Alternatively, if I walk in the front door of work and am maintaining an openness and elongated posture in my body that is both gentle and claimed in the tender and sensitive qualities that I bring to others, this offers others an opportunity to engage with me more easily and perhaps appreciate and inspire the same innate qualities within themselves.
What I have noticed lately is just how much other people notice all the little idiosyncrasies of movement that we express to them, and even the most subtle touch on someone’s shoulder in support or the slightest word of appreciation and encouragement can actually change someone’s life in a positive way forever. And having that sweet gentleman come up to me in this café today truly feels like a message from Heaven, reminding me of the amazing power we have to transform the world by our simple daily movements with no need to protest, fight, or complain about all the corruption. It’s just about the simple way in which we move and hold our bodies.