Flight 777: A Parable

By Matt Hollinger

A jet liner flew through the sky one morning, as they often do.

In the cockpit, as there usually is, sat a pilot and his copilot. This pilot was one of the best in the business, and everyone knew him as a benevolent man. Suddenly, a warning light blinked on. The pilots looked at it for a moment before springing into action. Switches were pulled. Buttons were pressed. Power was rerouted. Flaps were adjusted.

Still the light stayed on.

More switches and more buttons were pressed.

Still the light stayed on.

Cursing broke out from the flight crew. Panels were kicked.

Still the light stayed on.

The controls were frozen. The plane was no longer under the pilot’s control. Worse, a mountain loomed in the far distance. If something was not done, the plane would surely crash. There was a veritable frenzy of buttons and switches, but nothing worked.

The plane would crash.

The pilot knew this, and he knew that everyone must be evacuated before it happened. A parachute jump had to be made. He sent his copilot out to the cabin to break the news.

It was in the telling that something singular happened. When the copilot tried to speak, he found that he could only speak to the passengers in the front row. Thinking quickly, he gave his message of life and told them to pass it back to everyone, clear to the back of the plane.

This the first row did. They donned their parachutes and told the people behind them. These people put on their parachutes and told the people behind them. Those people put on their parachutes and told the people behind them.

That was where the problem arose. The people in this row had not seen the copilot come out. There was no reason to put on their parachutes for what may or may not be true, said they.

Luckily, one person in that row believed them. He passed it back to the row behind. The message did make it to the back of the airplane, but only a few people believed it. When the pilot turned on the security camera, he saw a sad sight. Only a few people had put on their parachutes.

“It’s a shame,” said he, “that they do not accept my message of life. This course of action will bring them death.”

“Sir,” said the copilot, “it is only because they do not believe mere hearsay. If you were to turn on the intercom to tell them, or go out yourself, everyone would believe you.”

The pilot sadly shook his head. “If they do not believe those who are with them, they will not believe even if I tell them over the intercom.”

The copilot nodded reluctantly. After all, the captain must know best. Suddenly he noticed something on the security camera.

“Look!” he said, trembling. “It’s that famous terrorist we saw on the news the other night! And he’s dressed as a flight attendant!”

The captain scowled darkly and turned on the camera’s sound.

“… to worry about,” said the terrorist. “It was a false alarm, and we should be arriving at our destination in about an hour.”

Many of those wearing parachutes took them off.

“Captain!” shouted the co-pilot. “We have to do something! I can go back there and stop him.”

But the captain only shook his head. “One day I will destroy that terrorist, but we must let him keep his free will for a time.”

“Free will?” asked the copilot. “That’s the most totally evil person on this plane, and maybe in the whole world! Surely we can sacrifice his free will to save all those people’s lives!”

“No,” said the captain sadly. “There will come a time, very soon, in which everyone will know the truth. They will have to jump. And those who did not believe my message will know that they were wrong, and they will perish.”

“I know those things!” shouted the copilot frantically. “We must alert everyone to the danger, not just the faithful!”

“But we have,” said the captain. The copilot was about to argue, but then decided to trust the benevolent captain to be right.

The moment of truth came. The captain finally burst out of the cabin.

“Everyone who has on a parachute must now jump!” Pandemonium struck the plane. The faithful sang songs of joy as they leapt to safety. Those who hadn’t believed the captain scrambled to put them on, but there wasn’t time. Just as the last of the parachutists jumped, the plane hit the mountain, and everyone still aboard was killed.

The pilot received a medal for his bravery, but only from the passengers themselves.

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