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Reader voices: Seeing, both physically and spiritually

Published: Sunday, Oct. 20 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

We have two kinds of eyes: physical eyes, which we can knock out with a sharp stick, and spiritual eyes, which we can knock out with sin.

Physical eyes

With our physical eyes, we see things around us in our daily activities such as walking, reading, working, etc. Many of us go to an eye doctor to have our eyes examined, then wear glasses to be able to see better.

In many of the stories by author Louis L'Amour, he mentions how important it is to not look into the campfire at night because it lessens the ability to see clearly at night.

As a highly trained Navy night all-weather, radar, special weapons pilot, I had made 120 landings on aircraft carriers, 20 of which were at night, in my short career as a Navy pilot.

To adapt our physical eyes to the pinnacle of efficiency for night flying, we wore red goggles for 30 minutes before leaving the pilots' ready room where the regular white lights were on. This adaptation was to help the rods and cones in our eyes perceive things better in the dark. When we were called to man our planes, we left the ready room and crossed the passage way to the flight deck. All lights on the flight deck were red, the lights on the instrument panels in the planes were also red. There was to be no white light visable on the flight deck, even the flashlights were red light!

The plane captains helped us get comfortably seated in the cockpit with our seat belt and shoulder harness in place. We then started the engines and tuned in the radio, then taxied onto the catapult. The deck crew rolled under the plane and attached the catapult bridle to the plane. The deck launch officer instructed us to run up the engines to full speed and to check all the gauges and set the flaps for takeoff.

When all was correct, having your left hand on the throttle fully forward, you saluted the launch officer, and dropped your right hand to the control stick, put your head back on the head rest and your feet on the rudder peddles.

They then fired the catapult.

In 120 feet, you were going about 135 mph air speed, the ship was doing 25 to 30 mph. We then would climb to 250 feet altitude, while "cleaning up the bird" — folding wheels and adjusting the flaps. We then would count off 17 seconds and roll into a left-hand standard rate turn for 34 seconds.

If you were launched going east, this turning would mean you were now going west, maintaining 250 feet altitude. When the radio compass — called the bird dog needle — reached the 9 o'clock position, you had turned 180 degrees and were directly abreast the carrier, going in the opposite direction.

All of this time you were scanning the instrument panel, altimeter for height above the water, compass for heading, airspeed indicator for speed and attitude for wing level.

When the bird dog needle reached the 9 o'clock position, we had been highly warned to not look for the position of the carrier, but to rely on the gauges. They were your lifeline. Do not interrupt your scan pattern!

At the 180 degree position, you were to call the tower, telling them all was down and locked. This meant that you had dropped the wheels and hook, set the flaps for landing and had reduced power to 68 percent. You then rolled into a left-hand standard rate turn.

Because of the turn, reduction of power, and with the wheels, hook and flaps down, you would be loosing altitude. At the 90 degree position, you would be at 125 feet above the water. In about five seconds, from the corner of your left eye, you could see the fluorescent glow of the seawater, turned up by the ship's screw propellers.

In a couple more seconds, you could see the landing signal officer or LSO with his lighted suit, with lights up and down his body and out his arms to include large paddles in his hands. He would be giving you signals to bring you aboard and to give you the cut for landing and the trap with the tail hook.

On my first attempt at night landing, the waves were about 20 feet high, so the deck was pitching a little. All went very well for me until the bird dog needle reached the 9 o'clock position. For some reason, I looked to see the carrier. This act disrupted my scan pattern of the instrument panel. When I reached the 90 degree position, I clearly heard the words "Pull up!"

I slammed the throttle fully forward and leveled my wings, beginning to pull up. When level, the white belly light on the plane reflected off the water, knocking out my night vision.

The air operations officer sent me home to Moffett Field for the night, with instructions to return to the carrier the next day. I made two daytime landings the next day and went out that night again. I'm happy to report that I didn't look for the carrier at the 180 degree position. I did get 20 night landings on that cruise.

The LSO of that first night's landing attempt came to me the next day and asked how I recovered. He had lost sight of me behind a large wave. He said that I was on my way up before he could call me on the radio.

That episode of looking for the carrier at the 180 degree position was in actuality a mistake or sin that just about cost me my life.

Spiritual eyes

Could we wear goggles of some kind to adapt the rods and cones of our spiritual eyes for better spiritual vision? I believe that we can and that we should.

Suppose at baptism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that we are fitted with a set of goggles. These goggles will be adjusted by our growing faith, knowledge of the gospel and our increasing degree of righteousness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. These spiritual goggles will help us to see more clearly and to aid us to do better in our lives. Faith can and will aid us to be more forgiving, more kind and to be a better person.

A few years ago, I had a horse come out from under me. I banged my head just ever so slightly on the ground, with a fraction of a second of blackness. I got to my feet and led the horse over to my trailer to step up onto the running board and then to step into the saddle.

My daughter came running to me to see if I was all right. She hadn't seen me go off the horse, but saw me getting up. I rode over to my round training corral and said, "Chris, where did these Shetland ponies come from?"

"Why, dad, you and Lynn brought them in from Linden last night!" was her reply. I then said, "Where is Linden?" From this, we knew that my bell had been rung.

Six weeks later, as I was doing a crown preparation for a woman in my Window Rock, Ariz., dental office, about half way through I lost my eye-hand coordination; my feet felt as if they weighed 50 pounds each, and I had a difficult time talking.

By rote memory and shear willpower, I finished the preparation and got the impression to have the lab manufacture the crown. I excused myself, gathered up my tools and drove the 125 miles home to Eagar, Ariz. The women in the Eagar office were shocked at the sight of me. They thought that I had had a stroke. They called my wife and told her that I was on my way home but that there was something wrong with me. My wife met me at the gate to help me into our home and to bed.

The next morning, after having had a bad night, I went to the emergency room at the hospital. They could find nothing wrong with me, except that I could hardly walk or talk. The CT scan computer was not working, so they couldn't get a picture of my head. On Tuesday of the next week, a CT scan was taken — I had a blood clot above my right ear.

They immediately put me in bed and started IVs. A neurologist and a hospital bed were found in Phoenix. That evening, I was taken to Phoenix and operated on the next day. They drilled three holes in my head and inserted a vacuum system to suck out the blood clot.

Before going to Phoenix, I was given a priesthood blessing. That blessing has meant a lot to me. A few months later, the radiologist, who was also our Sunday School teacher, gave a lesson on priesthood blessings and faith. I asked him, he knowing my condition, "Without the blessing and the prayers of my loved ones, how long would I have lived?" Without hesitation, he said, "24 hours!"

I am grateful for the restoration of the gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ, including the priesthood.

Yes, we do have two kinds of eyes. Let us use both in whatever endeavor we undertake to help us get back to our Heavenly Father, safely and honorably.

Richard D. Calderwood is a former U.S. Navy pilot and retired dentist who lives in Arizona.

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