When I was just a sprout, my brother observed that, “for Brian, reality is the cartoon”. There may have been more poetry than truth in that observation, but I really do gain a sharper insight on many issues when I revert to “cartoon vision”. In “Song of the South” (The “Disney Version” of Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories), B’rer Rabbit is constantly being pursued by arch enemies B’rer Bear and B’rer Fox. The two finally catch the wily bunny and are considering what to do with him. B’rer Bear, who always carries a gigantic club, wants to “bash his haid CLEAN in!” But B’rer Rabbit, their intellectual superior, dupes the two bumbling heavies.
“Oh, whatever you do, PLEASE don’t throw me in that briar patch!” he begs them. The two moronic villains are convinced by his protestations that the best punishment they can mete out to the rabbit is to fling him into the briar patch. That’s exactly what they do. But once B’rer Rabbit is heaved into the brambles, he hops up and down and proclaims, “I wuz BORN in a briar patch!” He is delighted to be in this medium which, to him, is as comfy as his own pelt.
This little ‘toon adventure had a big effect on me. We all have our “briar patch”, that activity or place where we feel comfortable, even if others view it with distaste or fear. I wrote about this phenomenon in “Too Windy to Fly”. I’ve also viewed the philosophy of “Outward Bound” with a lot of interest. I’ve seen their philosophy of the importance of getting out of your “comfort zone”. It works. Those who never get out of their comfort zone become sedentary. Their own comfort is a bit of a drug and with time they become dependent on it and less willing to leave it. For an aviator, that is a dangerous condition.
For an aviator, staying in your comfort zone virtually guarantees that you will not become a better pilot. Keep on doing that long drawn out 45 degree entry to the downwind. Keep practicing the stabilized approach. Keep doing only what you know how to do. Don’t fly a sailplane, don’t go upside down and, above all, never simply try to fly with more precision. That way you will guarantee that you will never leave your comfort zone.
What does the comfort zone have to do with the Briar Patch? Plenty. One pilot’s briar patch is another pilot’s comfort zone. Or maybe I should observe the lesson of B’rer Rabbit and say “one pilot’s briar patch is another pilot’s… briar patch!”
Some pilots, who’ve learned to fly in the wide open spaces and tiny little airports or farm fields, are absolutely terrified of big airports and air traffic controllers. Other pilots, who’ve learned to fly at those big airports don’t know any different. Want to terrorize them? Just ask them to land in a farm field!
Eventually, fed up with increased governmental meddling in the art of teaching others to fly, I will probably end my career as a flight instructor. But until that day, as both a writer and teacher of flying, I’m sure that I’ll continue to find that a major share of my work is to simply introduce fliers to operations that will get them out of their comfort zones and expand the size of their own personal briar patches. That is why I continually urge aviators to enjoy…