This page is for thoughts about life, life that I used to lead and life being led now.
Why we do it
from Flight to Arras
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, (1995), Penguin Books
I am working at my trade, when it comes down to it. What I am experiencing is no more than the physical pleasure of acts that are nourished with meaning and sufficient unto themselves. I feel neither a sense of great danger (my anxiety was very different when I was dressing), nor any sense of a grand duty. The conflict between the West and Nazism is compressed here into the scale of my actions, my actions on handles and levers and valves. That is how it should be, just as the sexton's love for God becomes the love of lighting candles. The sexton walks with a steady step through a church that he scarcely sees, and is content as he sees the candlesticks blossoming one by one. When they are all light, he rubs his hands together. He is proud of himself.
For my part, I feel no particular burden. I no longer wish to get out of this mission, though I thought earlier that I did, saying to myself: "The intercom will be out of order. I'm really tired. I'll be able to get some sleep." But I also knew deep down that there is nothing to be gained from a failure to fly but a sour kind of discomfort, as if a coming of age has failed to happen ... There is nothing to be gained from a failure to fly.
And so I am coming home. 2/33 Squadron is my home. I understand the people who share my home. I cannot misjudge Lacordaire. Lacordaire cannot misjudge me. I can feel this common identity. It is a truth remarkable in its presence: "We are the men of 2/33!" Just these words are enough to bind together the loose fragments ...
The profession of a detached witness has always filled me with horror. What am I, if I am not a participant? I need to participate in order to be. My nourishment is in the quality of my comrades, a quality that is unaware of itself because it doesn't care a damn about itself, and not through humility either ... Nothing can destroy this fellowship ... so I savour the professional obligations that forge us into a common body. I love 2/33 Squadron. I do not love it as a spectator, discovering a fine spectacle. To hell with the spectacle. I love 2/33 Squadron because I am a part of it, because it nourishes me and I play my part in nourishing it.
And now, coming home from Arras, I am more than ever a part of my Squadron. I have gained another bond. I have strengthened within me that feeling of community which is to be savoured in silence ...
I have been up there to seek once more the proof of my good faith, in the skies over Arras. I have committed my flesh to that endeavour. All my flesh. I committed it when loss seemed certain. I gave everything I could to the rules of the game ... In other words, the right to participate. To be bonded. To commune. To receive and to give. To be more than myself. To accede to that sense of fullness which is growing so strongly within me. To experience the love that I am experiencing towards my comrades, that love which does not come surging from somewhere outside, which does not seek expression - ever - except, to be truthful, at farewell dinners ... My love for the Squadron has no need of words. It is formed only of bonds. It is my very substance. I am one with the Squadron. That is all there is to it.