Final chapter of “West with the Night”
“I have seldom dreamed a dream worth dreaming again, or at least none worth recording. Mine are not enigmatic dreams; they are peopled with characters who are plausible and who do plausible things, and I am the most plausible amongst them. All the characters in my dreams have quiet voices like the voice of the man who telephoned me at Elstree one morning in September of 1936 and told me there was rain and strong head winds over the west of England and over the Irish Sea, and that there were variable winds and clear skies in mid-Atlantic and fog off the coast of Newfoundland.
‘If you are still determined to fly the Atlantic this late in the year,’ the voice said, ‘the Air Ministry suggests that the weather it is able to forecast for tonight, and for tomorrow morning, will be about the best you can expect.’
The voice had other things to say, but not many, and then it was gone, and I lay in bed half-suspecting that the telephone call and the man who made it were only parts of the mediocre dream I had been dreaming. I felt that if I closed my eyes the unreal quality of the message would be re-established, and that, when I opened them again, this would be another ordinary day with its usual beginning and its usual routine.
But of course I could not close my eyes, nor my mind, nor my memory. I could lie there for a few moments - remembering how it had begun, and telling myself, with senseless repetition, that by tomorrow morning I should either have flown the Atlantic to America - or I should not have flown it. In either case this was the day I would try.
I could stare up at the ceiling of my bedroom in Aldenham House, which was a ceiling undistinguished as ceilings go, and feel less resolute than anxious, much less brave than foolhardy. I could say to myself, ‘You needn’t do it, of course,’ knowing at the same time that nothing is so inexorable as a promise to your pride.
I could ask, ‘Why risk it?’ as I have been asked since, and I could answer, ‘Each to his element.’ By his nature a sailor must sail, by his nature a flyer must fly. I could compute that I had flown a quarter of a million miles; and I could foresee that, so long as I had a plan and the sky was there, I should go on flying more miles.”
- Beryl Markham
(and I am terribly sad to have finished this book)
More from “The Habit of Thought” by Michael Strong
“There is a propensity in nature to claim to be better and to believe that we are better than we are. Sociobiologists believe that we are genetically programmed to lie to ourselves, and to believe that we are better than we are, because this false belief in our own goodness allows us to be more effectively selfish without realizing it. Because our nature seems to resist doing so, it requires moral effort to subject our own truths and identity to continuous re-evaluation. And yet only by doing so are we engaged in a search for the truth…
Beliefs must always be re-evaluated, and an ego which is attached to a particular set of beliefs results in a mind which restricts its own understanding. One’s relationship to one’s ego is better understood as a matter of character rather than meta-cognition. We all face psychological incentives to distort the truth on behalf of our egos. It is evidence of moral character habitually to face the truth regardless of what our egos want us to believe.”
From “The Habit of Thought” by Michael Strong
“Many people in our society have been taught that ‘everyone’s opinion is equal,’ and that this position is the moral position, the most nurturing psychological approach, and the Truth. The official position is that students may have different ideas or interpretations, but there is no better or worse, only difference. And yet any student who wrote down on a test that the Pledge of Allegiance was about horse-racing would fail. Teachers may find themselves pretending to respect all opinions equally, but in most evaluation systems some opinions get more respect than others.
The subtext of the nice message that all opinions are equal is the cruel (and false) implication that they are all equally worthless. If one accepts all statements as equally valid, there is no reason to be thoughtful or considerate or creative or accurate when one makes statements. There is no reward for thoughtful, well-considered opinions. There is no recognition of the possibility of good judgement.
In real life we are constantly judging each other all the time. We make judgements about whom to befriend, whom to love, whom to ignore, whom to employ, what stores to patronize, what behavior is stupid, or immoral, or fun, etc. It is a tremendous hypocrisy to claim that we don’t judge other people. In fact, we judge people all the time and we simply prefer not to be put in a position where we have to expose and possibly defend those judgements. The fact that at present most of the judgements we make about people are thoughtless, made unconsciously, is not a reason to continue to be thoughtless about social decisions we make.”