Being Open to the Contrary Perspective: A Parable

The Banshee: Where's the propeller?

The Banshee: Where’s the propeller?

b. traven

I look at the “The Contrary Perspective” as a community of citizens interested in challenging the accepted views of our society, a community interested in seeking different or contrary views. But what if what you see (or think you saw) is so out of your experience of the physical and social world you are familiar with?

Here is a little story that happened to me as a young man that has influenced my questioning or contrariness of what is “reality.”

As a child growing up in a small Indiana mill town during the Great Depression I was entranced with airplanes. By age ten in the 1930s one could buy, for ten cents, a kit to build a small balsa, rubber band driven model airplane at the 5 and 10 cent store. I spent hours every week gluing the little balsa body and wings of the model together, then carefully covering the skeleton with Japanese tissue paper and sprinkling the paper with water to shrink tight over the balsa frame. I would wind the little propeller of the airplane that was attached to the rubber band “motor” then launch the plane into flight.  Planes needed propellers!

Ten years later in 1944 I am returning from a furlough in Ohio to my airbase in Arizona. As a member of the US Army Air Force I can get a “hop” on a military plane leaving from the Curtis-Wright aircraft plant. It is a Navy, two seated, torpedo bomber. The Navy pilot is delivering the plane to the West coast for delivery to the war in the Pacific. I will hop off in Arizona and get to my base as best I can. It is not a direct flight. We first will let down in St. Louis, then Tulsa, then El Paso before I am dropped off.

We land first at Lambert Field in St. Louis for refueling and are delayed because of weather. Lambert Field is a military base with McDonnell Aircraft at one end of the field  As the pilot and I are sitting in the small, sparsely furnished waiting room of the army side of the field we hear a strange piercing roar of a plane coming in for a landing. We rush outside to see what could be making this intense sound. We see a very small monoplane, like a fighter, in its approach and as its wheels hit the runway a huge parachute comes out of its tail. As it slows down along the runway we can see that it seems to have no propeller. The two of us look at each other and wonder what happened to the propeller?

As we discussed this strange sighting we both tended to feel that maybe it just had a very small propeller that we just couldn’t see. We could not imagine how a plane could get into the air without a propeller.

Years later I learned that what we saw was an early version of the McDonnell “Banshee” fighter that helped to usher in the “jet” age.

That taught me to reach beyond my own narrow experience for the reality that is out there.  It taught me to be open to “the contrary perspective,” hence the name of our site.

4 thoughts on “Being Open to the Contrary Perspective: A Parable

  1. Great story! A perfect illustration of the difficulty of making a paradigm shift, to use the term popularized by Thomas Kuhn. When every plane you’ve ever seen has had a propeller, you just assume there has to be one, even when it’s “invisible,” i.e. not there at all.

    To shift gears, the U.S. media always shows our country as being the aggrieved party or the defender of freedom. It never shows the U.S. as being the aggressor. So, many Americans simply can’t conceive that their country acts imperiously and aggressively around the world. They can’t process that fact. They can’t see that perspective.

  2. wjstore says: “many Americans simply can’t conceive that their country acts imperiously and aggressively around the world” Yes indeed, because to many Americans refuse to let facts interfere with their beliefs.
    “… I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” Ronald Reagan, television address on 4 March 1987
    Consider the Congressional and media image of Iran. (just listen to the ‘news’)
    Consider Iran’s image of the ‘West’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat AND http://www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=iran1950s

  3. Marketers and hucksters used to say, “You have to see it to believe it.” But I know now that the truth is “You have to believe it before you can see it.”

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