Monday, August 23, 2004

The Web of Trust

Some posts are so good they deserve to be reread every so often. Herewith I quote a post from another blog which practically deserves to be reread daily.

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Hardly a person reading this has not sat, probably many times, on board a commercial jetliner, munching a terrible sandwich while watching television on a little screen at seven miles above the earth moving faster than the musket ball that ended the life of Sullivan Ballou.

The sheer mundane frequency of this miracle should be enough on it’s own, but I ask you to look much deeper.

Think, for a moment, about the endlessly intricate, stunning web of trust, cooperation and genius required to make this happen. Drop the obvious elements like the pilots and the air-traffic controllers. Forget the armies of people who set their alarms every day to go and build, fly and maintain these wonders.

What about the chemist who determined the correct mixture to get that reprehensible purple dye just right for the fabric on the seat back covers? Who engraved DIANE’s name tag? How many hundreds of men cut how many grooves in how many trees to make the rubber that seals the handles on the restroom faucets? What were the names of the aerodynamicists who designed the wing section before the one actually finalized in the design of the airplane? Who made the air traffic controller’s coffee? What were the first words spoken between the parents of the person who cleaned and vacuumed your seat?

What were the names of the guys that laid the cement for the VOR station you’re navigating by, back in the 60’s? Who churned the butter in that little plastic container? Somebody forged the bolts that hold down that seat seven rows up? Who? Who delicately put into place that little paper diaphragm in the microphone the flight attendant is boring you with? The person who dry-cleaned the co-pilots uniform – nice guy? Dipshit? Who pumped the gas into the little tug that pushed the plane back at the gate? Come to think of it, this crappy TV show you’re watching? Who edits this garbage? What do we know about that guy?

You don’t see any of this, of course. You think nothing of it. But there it is. And this molecular structure does not run as deep anywhere else in the world. You’re it. You in 37B.

Now ask yourself if those five hooded murderers, those 19 hijackers, and those endless seas of raving, chanting, flag-burning lunatics could, together, manufacture one #2 pencil. You know, a perfect, yellow, three-cent pencil – including the dyes for the enamel paint, the glues and presses for the wood, the mined copper alloy for the band, the chemists to make the graphite and then there is the eraser – and no one knows what that is made of.

This web that keeps us alive and safe and free needs many things to thrive. Trust. Communication. Mutual respect. Genius. Hard work. And mostly passion.

Fear will kill it all. It will fall apart and unravel into smoke.
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