I heard the most amazing story yesterday. On Aug. 13, 1993, singer/songwriter Don Wharton was on board a twin-engine plane flying from Russia to Alaska when the plane ran out of fuel and landed in the Bering Sea, 27 miles from Nome, Alaska. Floating on an empty five-gallon gas can, he survived in 36-degree waters for 55 minutes. The other six on board the plane survived as well, lasting anywhere from 35 to 70 minutes in those waters until they were rescued.
The human body can only survive 10-15 minutes at that temperature. Up to that point, no one else had ever survived a plane crash in the Bering Sea.
Wharton said they stayed in contact with each other and encouraged each other by shouting memorized Bible verses to one another.
“This is… STILL the day the Lord has made. We will… STILL rejoice and… STILL be glad in it!” one of them shouted.
Wharton paused in his delivery. He said he wasn’t sure he was as enthusiastic about rejoicing at that particular moment as the guy who’d said it.
“Let me describe going down,” Wharton said. “Your life, up to that point, is IT. That’s all you’ve done. You’ll do nothing more.”
I don’t know what he said after that because I was still thinking about that. How do you know when you’ve accomplished enough? You don’t, really. And you’re never completely satisfied, but I got to wondering if I could be more satisfied. That answer, of course, was yes.
I’d heard Wharton’s story before, second- and third-hand, but here was one of the seven survivors, in the flesh, talking about it. And, yes, I’ll admit, at one point in his message I felt tears well up. He’s the second person who’s made that happen to me in two weeks. And, being male, I can’t say I’m particularly happy about that, but he made me think a lot so I’ll let it slide.
And being in my mid-twenties, which is an introspective time anyway even without some guy standing in the front of the room asking probing questions, I’m wondering if a change of direction isn’t on the horizon.
And on a slightly lighter note… If things weren’t already complicated enough, I think I’m in love on top of all this. No, this is only indirectly related to Wendy, the girl I spent three hours talking with after church a couple of weeks ago. Nothing against her, of course. I’ve had a number of long conversations with her after the end of a very long day, and it’s been great. She’s said a couple of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me (which takes some doing), and she’s said the same of me.
Now she’s left town for the next week and a half, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to her, and that bothers me some because I really wanted to. I also didn’t get to tell her I really hope she has a great time.
Is that love? Well, it’s certainly fondness, which is a type of love I suppose. But I met her seven months ago. We started talking beyond superficial how-you-doings about a month ago. That’s enough time to wish, but not enough time to know. A month isn’t enough time to get past the things you’ve fabricated about a person and really know the person she really is.
So, Dave says he’s in love, he just described the thrill of the chase in a really weird way, and he claims that has nothing to do with it. What gives?
A book, that’s what. Last week, Jim Cooley wrote me raving about The Brothers K, by David James Duncan. He described it as a book about God, baseball, and love. Then he said he reads me every day, so he feels pretty safe in saying I’ll love it. I got to thinking. God, baseball, and love. What else is there? He provided a link on Amazon, so I clicked it. Aside from being a book about everything that matters, the reader reviews claimed the book was funny on top of it! How can a book about baseball and religion be funny? I wondered about that. Then I went for a drive. I didn’t want to wait for Amazon or anyone else to deliver it to me. I hunted down a copy that night and bought it.
And what can I say? It’s a story about baseball. It’s a story about heartbreak–a fantabulous pitcher injures himself in a freak accident and that’s the end of his career. He starts drinking. It’s a story about God–his wife is a devout Seventh-Day Adventist, and his kids are mostly very confused Seventh-Day Adventists. His eldest has a crush on his Sabbath School (Adventists don’t worship on Sundays) teacher. And the girl he describes, aside from eye color, sounds so much like Wendy. And the butterflies he describes are so familiar… That part of the story makes me glad to be 26 and not 13.
I guess what makes the book funny is the perspective from which it’s told. Women might find the book enlightening (it seems to be as much about growing up as anything else, and it includes the details guys usually don’t include when they’re talking about their own adolescence), but to me, this seems to be a guy book. So many of my old fears are right in there, and the way the characters handle those fears hits home in such a way that I can’t help laughing.
I didn’t think I could possibly love any book as much as I loved The Great Gatsby, but this one stands a chance. And this book, like Gatsby, has me asking a question. Why don’t I even try to write fiction anymore?