I teach EFT in Europe each year. One challenge I face, in common with other travelers, is how to deal with jet lag when flying halfway around the earth. Common wisdom is that it takes your body a day to adjust per each hour of displacement from your originating time zone. So if you change time zones by five hours, for instance, it might take five days for your body to adjust. I’ve never bought into that received wisdom, and instead I’ve looked for ways to adjust sooner.
One of my strategies is to get my body off of home time and onto the time zone at my destination as quickly as possible. That means eating meals in the new time zone on schedule, even it if means two breakfasts in a row. Or drinking my morning coffee and taking my morning vitamins twice in “one” day.
On a trip to Paris, I’d stayed up all night and arrived in the morning Paris time. Paris is nine hours ahead of San Francisco, my home airport. I was tired when I arrived, but determined to stay up till 10 p.m. Paris time.
I climbed onto the Metro to travel from the vast Charles de Gaulle airport complex to central Paris, and realized that the train took me right by Le Bourget, the original Parisian airport. I decided to stop and visit the museum there. My reasoning was that it would capture my interest for several hours and keep my mind off how off-center my body felt.
I was awed by what I saw. The Le Bourget museum opened in 1919. That’s the year after the Great War ended in 1918, and a time in which the ex-belligerents were still sorting out their differences (unsuccessfully, as WWII demonstrated). I’ve visited many air and auto museums. A few months before this Paris trip, I was teaching in Washington, DC, and visited the fabled Smithsonian Air Museum, one of America’s finest. Nothing I’d seen in other museums prepared me for Le Bourget.
Because the museum was founded immediately following hostilities, airplanes destined to become exhibits were flown straight there from the front lines. I looked at an original Spad VII. Not just any Spad VII, but the actual plane, Vieux Charles, in which one of France’s great WWI aces, Georges Guynemer, flew. Suspended high above the Spad, accessible from a high walkway, I walked into the actual gondola of a Zeppelin airship. I saw other aircraft of which the museum’s example was the only one in existence. And though you, “Other Air Museum,” may have a Concorde, we, Le Bourget, have two! I’m not joking; they actually display two real-life Concordes in a single hangar.
The real lesson to me, though, was the scope of inventiveness of the human species. Some of the exhibits covered the origins of flight, such as Montgolfier’s 1786 hot-air balloon. It was astonishing to reflect that on the eve of the French Revolution, inventors were tinkering with the principles of stable flight.
Other exhibits followed early airplanes whose wings were modeled on the wings of a bat (summary: “Works great for bats, tragic for humans.”) through the Wright Brothers and increasingly sophisticated wing designs. The Wright brothers didn’t believe in ailerons, the small flaps at the trailing edge of each wing. They favored “wing warping,” pulling the wing into different configurations through wires and pulleys. They were wrong, and eventually followed other innovators in adopting ailerons. That’s a French word, and the French were at the forefront of flight for the first decade.
Another revelation was looking at the first engine developed by another Frenchman, Viosin, at the time of the Wright brothers. It was a tiny V8 engine, weighing less than 200 pounds! It was a marvel of high power, advanced design, and low weight. Though his engine was innovative, his wing design kept him on the ground, and he didn’t fly successfully till after the Wright Brothers completed their first foray at Kitty Hawk.
Looking at the wings and engines of those aircraft developed in the first 10 years of heavier-than-air flight helped me appreciate the power of human imagination. Six years after the Wright Brothers flew, an early French monoplane (with a single wing, rather than the two stacked wings of the biplane favored by aircraft designers till the 1930s), the Deperdussin, had already worked out the basic architecture of the modern airplane design. A German, Junkers, fielded an all-aluminum monoplane before the end of WWI, but his innovations were forgotten for years after that.
We human beings are learning machines. The theories of wing design were eventually dominated by the current one, the chord. For most of the century till WWII, the biplane was favored, but eventually gave way to the monoplane. Heavy steel engines gave way to light materials like aluminum. Propeller-driven engines were superseded by jets. Aluminum airframes are now making way for construction materials like the composites employed in Boeing’s new Dreamliner, in which I recently flew. It’s another jump in the quality of air travel, with increased cabin comfort along with low operating costs for airlines.
Imagine a world in which we innovate emotionally as rapidly and effectively as human beings have innovated in aviation. Imagine if we solve the problems of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder in a decade, the way we did for ailerons, wing shape, and engine materials. We have it in us to make these strides, and energy psychology is one of the foremost new psychotechnologies taking us there. It’s possible to imagine a world, a few years from now, in which we’ve applied these new healing methods to old human mental health problems, and seen the kind of radical progress in alleviating suffering that’s been demonstrated in other fields of endeavor.
While we’re stuck in suffering, it’s sometimes hard to lift our heads far enough out of our misery to see a world of new possibilities. Museums like Le Bourget are an uplifting reminder of the potential of our species to solve even daunting problems.