Elegy for the Sky King

On August 11th, aircraft mechanic Richard Russell stole an empty plane and became a legend.

Richard was a very humble man. He enjoyed making and editing videos, and cracking jokes with his friends and family, who he loved dearly. He had stable employment loading luggage on and off planes, and he had a loving wife to come home to after travelling the world at work. In his spare time he learned how to fly planes using flight simulator video games, dreaming of someday flying those wonderful machines.

It all evens out in the end, right?

 If only life were so simple.

If only life were so simple.

With nobody onboard the plane, Richard took off into the sky towards the Olympic mountains. “I don’t plan on landing this,” he told the flight controller. Fighter jets were dispatched to pursue him fearing the worst, but Richard remained calm and polite, apologising to everyone for “ruining their day” and also for letting down his family.

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With his light-hearted joking attitude, Richard was on a mission to do something that would give his life meaning, something that would never be forgotten.

He wanted to do a Goddamned barrel roll.

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And he did a Goddamned barrel roll.

Shortly afterwards, as his plane was running out of fuel, Richard did the other thing he had set out to do. He nosedived into uninhabited ground and called it a night.

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How on Earth did this happen?

Richard had money, he had a job, he had a marriage, isn’t that all you need? Isn’t that what we’re told will make us happy? He travelled the world and saw sights that would reduce grown men to tears at their beauty. He went further in a single day of work than any of his ancestors would have gone in their entire lives, he could look down on the same clouds that everyone before him gazed up at in awe.

He had everything the modern world had to offer, and it killed him.

Now, the mind of someone with suicidal depression is almost impossible to understand. Not even the person themselves really gets it because it’s a fundamentally broken way of thought. People want to live, we do everything we can to live longer and healthier and more enjoyable lives. People who are suicidal just want everything to end.

And if you only listened to the tapes and reports you might think that’s all this was; a suicidal man ticking one last thing off the bucket list.

And you would be wrong. Completely and utterly wrong.

There’s another way to view Richard’s situation, a cog in a machine with no goal or direction, floating around from place to place seeing the underbelly of industrial society. Millions of people he’ll never know pass before him without ever noticing his existence, except when he makes a mistake.

A loving wife for sure - one he rarely gets to see and one with whom he cannot afford to raise a family. A wonderful view of the most beautiful places in the world - places he could never afford to live in or even visit on his own terms. An important role working in modern society, a society that hates him, discriminates against him, and would rather he just shut up and not exist anymore.

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For those that don’t know, in America there is a program that allows for legal discrimination against one and only one group of people. This group of people is denied education, employment, advocacy, and many other systemically vital things needed to live in modern society. And it’s all done in the name of “correcting historical injustice.”

Did Richard look like an unjust man to you? Did he deserve to be denigrated for who he was?

Richard was not a suicidal man wanting to end his suffering, he was just a normal guy who saw the world for what it is. Just like the caged lion who refuses to even eat in captivity, and who would rather starve to death than be made into an amusement for others to gawk at, Richard took control of his life.

For one brief hour Richard flew amongst the clouds, reaching out for the heavens and enjoying himself to the fullest.

For one brief hour Richard was alive, the world that tried to crush him had failed to do so, and had failed spectacularly.

Richard revolted against the modern world, and in death he will live on forever as a hero.

Because a hero is just a man who knows he is free.