It’s curious how the mind jumps from point to point. As an example, let’s look at my mind this morning.
The newspaper today was describing a man’s car collection and one of the cars was a 1942 Oldsmobile B-44 Sedanette. The B-44 was in honor of WWII bomber airplanes. That reminded me of the P-38 Lightning, another WWII airplane. The P-38 reminded me of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who was flying an F-5B photoreconnaissance version of that plane in July 1944 when he was shot down and killed (1).
Saint-Exupéry was a pioneer flyer and author of many well-known books, The Little Prince, Wind, Sand and Stars, etc. Recalling his last flight reminded me that he was quite old to have been in a fighter airplane over France in 1944.
He wrote on the last day of his life, “… I fight as earnestly as I can. I must be the oldest fighter pilot in the world. The normal age limit for the type of fighter plane I fly is thirty. And the other day I had mechanical trouble while flying over Annecy at the precise moment I became forty-four years old! … If I’m shot down, I won’t regret anything.” (2, p. 208)
Saint X, as he liked to be called, learned to fly in 1921 when airplanes were little more than sticks, fabric and wire (3). His P-38 Lightning was an all-aluminum, twin engine, turbo-supercharged, fighter that could hit 400 miles per hour. Aviation had advanced several generations between 1921 and 1944 and Saint-Exupéry had shown great flexibility in advancing as technology marched onwards.
This is where Saint X, who never really lived long enough to be an old person, fits into our new old person model. The old are no longer the depository of the past but are staying on top of new developments and current trends. I recall how my parents and their friends (all greatest generation) were so old. My friends (and me too) are in the same chronological ballpark now and we are so young. It boggles the mind.
As this is supposed to be an interactive discussion, I’d like to hear some stories of how the old are staying new. Got anything interesting to share?
- Lockheed P-38 Lightning. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. See section 7.6 discussing Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
- Saint- Exupéry, A. de. Wartime Writings: 1939-1944. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, CA., 1986.
- Liukkonen, P. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) – in full Antoine-Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupéry. Authors’ Calendar – Books and Writers, 2008.
Join us for a real-time discussion about questions raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. We use the self-same virtual world as was mentioned above. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.