Grace Grows in Arid Prose

There is a prayer in the Airman's Information Manual," he said.

The speaker was a retired engineer, pilot, and a friend of long standing.

"Really?" I said. In a government operations manual? I thought. Had he gone daft? The manual is a guidebook of procedures, an official publication of the United States government. Surely technocrats and attorneys had excised every hint of religious or emotional content.

My friend heard the incredulous note in my reply. He paused.

"Yes," he said, "the Four C's."

Aviators well know the Four C's. They outline how to deal with emergencies. As fledglings studying to pass our written examinations, we'd memorized them.

They are:

Climb. Altitude grants time, a wider radius of choice. And the higher the airplane, the longer the reach of its radio.

Communicate. The entire might of a matrix of public and private agencies, all dedicated to preserving life, will mobilize on our behalf if we but seek it.

Confess. A critical point. Often, the emergency may be a product of our own pride. We dissemble at our peril.

Comply. Having confessed, compliance with instructions - obedience - may be critical to our survival.

The four C's. Yes, of course.

I wasn't sure what to say. In an age of political correctness, when the wall between church and state looms so large, how perfect to find - hidden in the cracks of a bureaucrat's concrete prose -a beautiful prayer, a flower blooming in the pavement, a graceful note of faith.

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