The Surly Bonds of Earth

I’m getting a lot of enjoyment and inspiration from a booklet put out by the South Deerfield Congregational Church, where I go with my mom. Every year during Lent they collect reflections from as many members as possible. What a great idea.

The booklet is called “Finding God in Unexpected Places” and every entry reflects something wonderful about the world and the human race and the Great Spirit.

One submission was a poem called High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Back in the olden days when I was a kid, before they invented infomercials, television stations used to go off the air. For some reason they played the national anthem just before putting up a test pattern or just dissolving into snow.

But some stations had these thoughful signature signoffs, and one station in Boston used Magee’s poem with footage of a fighter jet.

I could almost recite it from memory. I heard it hundreds of times. It was a beautiful recitation, but with this poem, how could you miss?

Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Makes me think of my favorite writer Sony Stark, aka PilotGirl.

There’s another entry about a woman with “old-timers” like my mom who for one wonderful day comes back and recognizes her family and talks about old times. It’s very heartening to find out that’s possible, and it fits in with what I’ve been observing.

I’ve met a lot of people who have gone through the “old-timers” progression and they generally don’t say too much because they don’t want to be the one to have to tell you. The future is not too bright, and we’re already seeing signs of that.

But forgetting just about everything (except that the forks go on the left) also brings a lot of freedom and a childlike openness to fun. Surely Sally, in her way, has slipped the surly bonds of earth.