I named them “The Fearless Flyers” because each of them boarded an empty jet shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center. They were Chet Young from Iowa, Dick Taylor from New Jersey, Akintunde Omitowaju from Nigeria and Dr. Kevin Ryan from Utah.
It was the morning of Day Two at Wizard Academy, September, 2001. Sitting on the tall “hot-seat” at the front of the room, country-boy Chet Young had done a marvelous job of analyzing the “frosting” in the Robert Frost poem that I had assigned him the previous evening. After we enthusiastically applauded Chet's excellent de-frosting of the poem, he asked, “But what does it mean, exactly?”
“What does the poem mean?” responded Dr. Ryan.
Kevin stood up and walked toward the window, motioning for Chet to follow.
“Now look out there and tell me what you see.”
“I see a big oak tree,” said Chet. “Birds. Squirrels. Some little kids playing a game. Blue sky. Clouds.”
“Do you like it, Chet?”
“Sure, I like it.”
Then the devious Dr. Ryan sank the hook; “But what does it mean?” A long silence followed as Chet carefully considered Kevin's question. Kevin Ryan's Ph.D., by the way, is in Creative Writing.
Finally, Chet responded. “Are you saying it's okay for me just to like the poem? I don't have to understand what it means?”
“Yeah, Chet. It's okay just to like it.” Kevin smiled. Chet smiled. Dick and Akintunde smiled. We opened a bottle of wine.
As you read these words, dozens of Wizard Academy graduates will be arriving home from Austin where the theme of this year's reunion was, “What to Do With the Rest of Your Life.” But I saved one special tidbit for you that I didn't share with anyone during the reunion. Thinking of the Fearless Flyers reminded me of it: When I was barely old enough to read, I became enchanted with the dark and majestic book of Ecclesiastes, in which the wise-ard Solomon takes the reader on a long and winding search for the meaning of life. Systematically and with great focus, Solomon searches for life's meaning in wisdom, pleasure, humor, achievements, popularity, wealth and honor, but finds it in none of those things. Finally, at the end of the book, he writes, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter&” and then he tells us the meaning of life. But I don't want to spoil it for you. You really ought to read it for yourself sometime.
And what became of the Fearless Flyers? Dick Taylor recently helped his wife launch a new web site for women called myfriendlisa.com. Akintunde Omitowaju just finished programming “Metroid Prime,” the anxiously awaited new video game from Nintendo. Dr. Kevin Ryan's book, “Write Up the Corporate Ladder,” is available for pre-order at amazon.com. And Chet Young is secretly reading poetry (but admitting it to none of his burly friends) in Burlington, Iowa, the heartland of America.
What about you? The rest of your life begins right now.
Got anything special planned?
Roy H. Williams
P.S. If you would like to sign up (or know someone who would) to receive the Monday Morning Memo in Spanish, please email JG@wizardacademy.org.