“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
—attributed to the Buddha
Aviation, like many professions, has its own particular and sometimes peculiar concepts and jargon. I spent almost twenty years flying helicopters in the Marine Corps. That meant nearly twenty years worth of picking up FOD.
FOD is garbage that can hurt you. The acronym means Foreign Object Damage, which implies an event. But the acronym gets used to name the stuff that could cause damage: a screw, nut, bolt, rivet, stone, chip of glass… almost anything. When this stuff is on the airfield, it can get kicked up by jet wash, prop wash, or rotor wash and become an injurious missile: in the words of Hamlet, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” It can damage people, airplanes, and airplanes flying with people. FOD is bad.
So we did what humans frequently do: we created a ritual. By the time I joined the military, the ritual was policy, so I didn’t think of it as a ritual. I felt it as a requirement.
Every morning we conducted a FOD walk. We lined up at double-arm intervals and walked the width and length of our part of the airfield, picking up FOD. It was a good ritual. Whether I knew it back then or not, it was like a prayer early in the morning that set the tone for what we would do for the rest of the day. It was proof to ourselves and each other that we would invest in doing the right thing in the right way.
I paid the rent while I was in seminary by flying in the Reserves. I was immersed in both Operationality and Spirituality. It produced an interesting set of observations and reflections about the real meaning of the things I did day after day. I wish that I understood the real purpose of FOD walk earlier in my career, earlier in my life. I used to bemoan that it was one more thing that required us to get up ever-earlier in the morning. If I had been gently paying attention to the here-and-now, I would have realized that it was a ritual that invited a blessing of care and wellbeing on the day.
O Divine One, loosen me from the past and the future; loosen me from complaint and protestation; that I might count my blessings in the present moment without prior need of hindsight or regret.