Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What was the co-pilot thinking?

          If you’re tuned in to one of the on-camera commentators, you may have been told why a young  co-pilot crashed a Germanwings plane with 150 persons aboard. Maybe you’ve been told what he thought about while passengers screamed, sealed in the huge aircraft behind him.

          Of course nobody really knows what Andreas Lubitz was thinking. Commentators tell us what they think he was thinking. They depend on memory, instincts and good intentions to provide swift oral locomotion.

          It is said that Lubitz consulted professionals for treatment of mental ailments, including suicidal tendencies, but no doctor unstrung his tangled mind or spotted the danger to others. Commentators who never met Lubitz, and never heard of him before the crash, fascinate us with stories and speculation about it, their own and the speculation of others.

          We want the commentators to fill in the blanks for us. We know that disturbed minds are never more determined than when they tuck their secrets away, hidden from psychiatrists, spouses, parents, siblings and friends. Lubitz may have spent his last hour with his secrets, without a thought for the plane and passengers.

          Mark Twain lets us peer into the mind of Tom Sawyer, and we know what he’s up to. But Tom doesn’t know. It hasn’t happened to him yet. Paul in his letter to the Romans says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” He considers this further in Romans 7:15-20, NRSV, concluding that “if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

          The psychiatrists, the teachers of pilots and other professionals are not examining patients and clients in order to spot sin. That’s more elusive than cancer and more controversial than life support issues. They are looking for mental disorders that may be what Paul, in earlier times, called sin.

          Lubitz will never be confused with the co-pilot described by Robert Lee Scott Jr. in his 1945 wartime book and movie, “God is My Co-pilot.” Nor can anyone be confused about the frantic prayers addressed to that eternal co-pilot by passengers and crew hurtling toward a sudden end.

          Lubitz is being examined in absentia. Who will probe the minds of the passengers?


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