I haven’t felt much like blogging lately; you may have noticed. I’ve been practicing law and catching up on my reading. Right now I’m interested in The End Of The World As We Know It. I read James Kunstler’s (his blog) World Made By Hand — good apocalyptic fiction (the genre of Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle [Pournelle’s blog] or even The Stand, which is the only Stephen King book I’ve read) about preserving civil society after the SHTF (but with a mysterious mystical twist at the end that I don’t appreciate.
Kunstler, Niven & Pournelle, and King all have different visions of TEOTWAWKI. Kunstler’s vision is probably the most plausible of the three, with a combination of factors — war, disease, scarce oil, and terrorist attacks — bringing the demise of American civilization. A reminder, perhaps, that it’s better to be ready than prepared?
Having every intention of surviving TEOTWAWKI, and wondering what might distinguish survivors from non-survivors, from “World Made by Hand” I went to Laurence Gonzales’s Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why (blogito). And suddenly I found myself back on the nominal topic of this blog: the art and science of criminal defense trial lawyering.
Here’s an excerpt from the very early pages of Deep Survival. A little context: Yankovich is a landing signal officer (LSO) on the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. He’s briefing Navy fighter pilots.
Yankovich continued his briefing: “The steam curtain comes up and you lose the yellowshirt for a minute. You’ll be a hero real quick if you have the fold handle in the wrong position, so check that. Spread ’em, five potatoes, and you’re all set. Okay, wipeout, the engines come up, see that they match. The safety guys jump up and make sure the beer cans are down. Tension signal. Hands you off to the shooter, and then: head back and four G’s. Grab the towel rack. Touch the ejection seat handle and make sure you’re not sitting on it. If you lose an engine on the cat, stroke the blowers, twelve-to-fourteen-not-to-exceed-sixteen. Rad Alt: You see you’re descending, the wiser man will grab the handle.”
What the hell did he just say. . . ?
The first time I heard a briefing like that, I was lost. But that’s part of the point: only those who get it get it. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. Just for the record, what Yankovich said was that it would be a very bad idea to try to depart with your wings folded up, as they are for taxiing around on the deck. It takes five seconds for them to lock down into place after you movethe handle, so you count off ‘as follows: one-potato, two-potato, three-potato . . . Then, after all the technical bits of the launch process have been checked (the wipeout with the stick to make sure your controls are moving freely, checking to see that the engines are both producing the same amount of power, and so on), you’re going to hold onto a metal bar known as the towel rack (because that’s what it looks like) to keep yourself from being slammed back by the force of the catapult. And just in case that isn’t complicated enough, remember that one of your engines could quit, in which case you have to put the other engine into afterburner (known as the blower because it blows) to get enough power to keep going up (but don’t overspeed it, those engines are expensive). And since nothing ever works out as planned, check the radar altimeter, which will tell you if you’re sulking, in which case wisdom would dictate that you depart the aircraft with some haste.
Of course, it would be unthinkable to talk like that because, for one thing, anybody could understand you. For another, it would be terrifying.
And after all that, there is still the little matter of landing the aircraft, because, as my father used to say, takeoff is optional but landing is mandatory. Yankovich explained the most salient points: “You’re at a quarter mile and someone asks you who your mother is: you don’t know. That’s how focused you are. Okay, call the ball. Now it’s a knife fight in a phone booth. And remember: full power in the wire. Your IQ rolls back to that of an ape.”
It sounds as if he’s being a smart-ass (he is), but deep lessons also are there to be teased out like some obscure Talmudic script. Lessons about survival, about what you need to know and what you don’t need to know. About the surface of the brain and its deep recesses. About what you know that you don’t know you know and about what you don’t know that you’d better not think you know. Call it an ape, call it a horse, as Plato did. Plato understood that emotions could trump reason and that to succeed we have to use the reins of reason on the horse of emotion. That turns out to be remarkably close to what modern research has begun to show us, and it works both ways: The intellect without the emotions is like the jockey without the horse.
Much more soon.