On this momentous day, in which we the people of the United States
inaugurate a transformational figure into our highest office, I thought it appropriate to begin my blogging life at IFTF by drawing inspiration from the etymology of the word inauguration, and its connection to the heroic efforts of those aboard and involved in the rescue of US Air flight 1549.
Inauguration, as it has come to mean today, indicates the formal
installation of a new leader, especially a head of state. Its roots, however, trace to the Latin inaugurare, to "take omens from the flight of birds, consecrate or install when such omens are favorable." The events of last week, involving the convergent flight of two “birds,” (a flock of geese and a commercial airliner) provide us with the opportunity to put this “omen” into a larger narrative about the skills and mindset needed to navigate the precarious futures that lie before us.
While invocations of divine intervention have surrounded this story, it was not the hand of God that guided all 155 passengers and crew to safety, but rather the experience, training, and courage of all the human beings involved. Those qualities were essential, but so were the very human technologies of foresight and preparation. Preparation is what saved the crew and passengers—preparation for an incredibly rare, but potentially catastrophic event.
The foresight was, unfortunately, made easier by the fact that impacts with birds are well known in the history of aviation, occasionally causing major damage and loss of life. What humans seem to lack, however, is the ability to prepare well for the previously unseen, but clearly possible, rare, catastrophic event. The faulty levees of New Orleans are but one tragic example of this lack of appropriate response to available foresight. Only an actual “Black Swan” flying into the engine of US Air 1549 would have been more manifestly poetic, and poetically instructive.
So, let us read this inaugural omen as a glorious sign—a sign that says although the future looks bleak, and we might be heading for a crash, we have the skills and the fortitude to land together, land safely, and land with the appreciation for what it takes to overcome the seemingly impossible.