While I was working in Nepal some years ago, a helicopter crashed. A helicopter, as you might imagine, has a great variety of pieces with a wide range of shapes and sizes, of which the mechanic responsible for the helicopter’s maintenance knows the individual arrangements and functions. The problem with this particular helicopter was in the engine, which was held together by a multitude of nuts and bolts. Each nut and bolt had a small, sideways hole drilled through it so a tiny, 4-inch “safety wire” could be inserted. The ends were then twisted together to prevent the tremendous vibration created by a running engine from loosening the nut, thus allowing it to work itself off its bolt. Simply put, the function of the small hole and little piece of wire was to counteract the engine’s vibration.
Prior to its last maintenance, the helicopter had functioned as it was designed to and had remained safely airborne for many hours. At the required time, it was grounded for maintenance. On its first post-maintenance flight, however, it crashed into the jungle without warning. Why? Upon retrieval of the helicopter, mechanics spent many hours examining all of its pieces to see what had gone wrong. At length, they found out.
One of the mechanics who had helped perform the helicopter’s last maintenance had forgotten to replace one tiny, four-inch-piece of safety wire that held a nut in place on its bolt that, in turn, kept the lateral-control assembly together. The nut had vibrated off its bolt, the helicopter lost its stability, and the pilot lost control. A tiny, missing piece of wire, the lack of which altered the entire functional dynamics of the aircraft, caused the accident. The engine had merely been “simplified” by the absence of a single, out-of-sight component.
Which piece—at that critical instant—was the most important part in the helicopter?
Clearly, each piece of any system has a corresponding relationship with every other piece, and they provide sustainability only to the extent they work in concert within the limits of their biophysical design—a helicopter being of human design and physical materials.
Like the different parts of the helicopter, each person has an innate gift to give. And, like the various parts of the helicopter, each person’s gift is a critical component of the whole—be it a functional human community or the integrity of Nature’s biophysical system. Some people, for example, have a large, obvious gift to offer (analogous to the helicopter’s rotor), whereas others have a small gift, one that both arises and is proffered in obscurity (analogous to the 4-inch piece of safety wire).
These mechanical parts symbolize the challenge of comparison with respect to the value of a person’s innate gift in today’s materially minded world. Namely, whose gift is better, more important, and thus deserving recognition and praise? What is the comparison based on? Size? Expense? Visibility? “Celebrityship”? This is not, however, a question that would enter the mind of an environmental mystic.
A mystic’s only concern is a private one—how to actively demonstrate their abiding love for Mother Earth. This being the case, a mystic’s gift might be simplifying their lifestyle to minimize their material footprint. Or, it could be the conscious creation of habitat for butterflies, bees, and birds in their organic garden. Then again, it could be the simple act of moving an earthworm out of harm’s way to a place where it would not only be safe but also allowed to perform its biophysical function of caring for and enriching the soil.
The singular thought in a mystic’s mind is to leave this magnificent planet spinning miraculously in space a little better for the privilege of having been here amid the myriad forms of biophysical beauty and the wonder of it all.
Each person’s innate gift—whether an environmental mystic or otherwise—is sacred and resonates throughout the universe as a “thank you” to the Eternal Mystery from whence comes the infinite, ineffable beauty that is the surrounding context of our life. In the final analysis, however, it is the love in one’s heart that is the real gift. And, unconditional love—being of the spiritual realm—is beyond comparison to or with anything in the material world.
Text © by Chris Maser 2013. Photograph of the Canadian Helicopter Bell 212 gratefully used from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to CambridgeBayWeather. Earthworm photograph gratefully used from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Michael Linnenbach. All rights reserved.
Posted in SPIRITUAL ECOLOGY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MYSTICS | Tags: animal lovers, biodiversity, commons, conservation, ecological services, economic profits, environmental education, fertile soil, helicopter, love, maintenance, my garden, natural resources, nature's inviolate principles, sustainability, wire