How are things different than when you were young?
I may be seen in the middle leg of the "m".
The sweat was dried by the wind created when the Enterprise turned into the wind and speeded up to create enough air movement across the flight deck so that aircraft could be launched. The ship turned into the wind every hour to launch planes that dropped bombs in what was then North Vietnam. Up here on the second (the highest) yardarm, over two hundred feet above the water, there was no shelter from the wind. There was a handrail on both sides of the foot wide yardarm to hold on to. The handrails were approximately six inches above my feet, planted firmly on the gray steel yardarm. Safety belts were fastened around the handrail until we were at the object of our endeavor which was two-thirds of the way to the end of the yardarm. The object of our endeavor was the antenna for the ships SRN-9, satellite navigation receiver.
I can’t remember the name of the ET1 I was with. I do remember that he had enough courage to stand up with his safety belt unhooked so that he could reach up and unscrew the antenna during the short time we were sailing with the wind. I also remember him shouting the words to Hang on Sloopy as we were crouched down when the wind raced by us.
The memory of that bright sunny morning in the Gulf of Tonkin was brought back to me by two events of last week. The first was that I read of the “Big E” leaving for its final deployment. That coupled with the fact that I recently went on my first cruise since 1966 brought up a lot memories for me. The singing of Hang on Sloopy was just one of a slew.
Then, yesterday at First United Methodist Church, the question asked before the sermon was: What was practiced in churches when you were young and is no longer? I immediately thought of the communion “wine” being served in those little, dinky glasses as the congregation remained seated in pews. The glasses were then placed in the holders conveniently placed on the back of the pew in front of you. I don’t know of any churches that do that today. The closest to that tradition I know of is the Vineyard, where everyone comes forward to receive those little, dinky, plastic glasses containing the grape juice. The substitution of plastic for glass is just the tip of the iceberg. (Many churches have changed how communion is done and/or what the communion symbolizes since the early 60s. For example, the Roman Catholic Church never used to share the wine.) When I thought a bit more about this question, I could think of many more examples of change within churches. The changes symbolize much more than a mere change in the form of the worship service to me personally.
The god I prayed to keep me safe on that narrow yardarm is now the same one I asked for the blessing for today this morning. The god I prayed to back then was the god of a literal bible which was taught in the church I went to before I joined the Navy. God hasn’t changed much, I suspect. Then, I prayed for god to bless our war against the North Vietnamese. Today, I regret that and feel humbled by the experience of having done so.
I feel humbled for the same reason that Harold Camping does. He made the mistake predicting the date for the “rapture”. He has apologized for his ‘sin’. It took him four tries and 24 years to become humbled. It only took me one war and approximately a quarter of a century. His error was using numerology to try and predict dates for a symbolic occurrence. My ‘sin’ was: believing that God would endorse violence and that our country had the right to use violence to further our politics. I might add, when I sought endorsement of violence from God, I believed in the same literal bible that I assume Harold does.
The Enterprise was a mistake in some ways. It cost so much to build that plans for the next three carriers of the Enterprise class were scrapped and the next two carriers built reverted to the Kitty Hawk class. This one of a kind thing has led to some problems. Some spare parts can no longer be bought; they have to be made on the ship. I find similarity with the belief in a literal bible. You have to keep fabricating new pieces to keep things moving smoothly. Eventually, you get to the point where you spend more time and effort, propping up the structure than you do in accomplishing your mission.
I feel sadness that the Enterprise is on its last mission and will be scrapped. I feel a tinge of sadness when I remember the god I used to believe in. Life was simpler then. I did not have to question my participation in a war. I felt safer praying to a less complex god. Still, I am grateful. My need for certitude in life has passed. I have moved on. The Enterprise has out lived the two carriers that were built after it and her usefulness.
Does Harold feel the same about his belief that the bible is so literal that the future can be determined from it?
NOTE: I am not in this photo!