No Flight From Right

No Flight From Right

Not an avid movie-goer, I saw a very good movie the other day – “Flight,” starring Denzel Washington.

It’ s about an airline pilot who a) manages a relatively safe crash landing after his airline jet suffers fatal mechanical problems, and b) is a serial druggie, drunk and womanizer.

He nearly escapes culpability for his behavior, which would blacken the reputation of another crew member – until he, unexpectedly, makes a last-moment confession that results in a prison sentence that he accepts as a just verdict.

The morals of “Flight” are clear: no person is beyond redemption. It’s never too late. No person is all good or all bad.

There are, “Flight” teaches, ethical redlines that even the most despicable person will not cross. The pilot in the end made a correct that decision that had severe consequences.

That’s a basic lesson of Mussar, the Jewish practice of rebuke and introspection. Look at the Mishna’s Pirkei Avot, and the aggadic stories of the Gamara. Talmud and Judaism’s holy books are replete with stories of people who sinned, whose conscience bothered them, who repented, who gained an eternal reward in an instant.

I recently read a magazine story about a person who had shot someone in a robbery-gone-wrong many years earlier. He biked off after the shooting, and never knew the victim’s fate. Did the victim live or die? The newspapers never reported the incident, and the shooter was afraid to ask, lest he arouse suspicion.

His conscience gnawed at him over the years.

Finally, curiosity and a sense of justice forced his hand – he walked into the police precinct where the shooting had taken place. He told the officers what had happened. They looked up the cold case. The victim had died; the police took the shooter into custody.

The shooter, convicted by his own testimony, went to prison. He, like the fictional pilot in “Flight,” accepted the verdict. Finally, his conscience was clear, and he was able to bring some closure to the victim’s family.

The shooter’s action showed there is no flight from one’s conscience.

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