An Objectivist friend in Ohio, Tim DiVeto, sent me this email on Jan. 16th. With his permission I post it in its entirety below because it matches my thoughts exactly.
“When speaking to the press about flight 1549 NY Gov. David Paterson said. “We had a miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we have had a miracle on the Hudson,” Was the happy ending of this flight a miracle? Or was the safe landing of the plane an effect caused by heroism? I think the latter.
A miracle is: A deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event, or one transcending the ordinary laws by which the universe is governed. [1913 Webster]
What “deviation from the known laws of nature” happened in flight 1549? Every account I have read and viewed is believable. What I think Gov. Paterson is missing is that man, by his very nature, is heroic. How can one be heroic? Can heroism be achieved in day to day life, or is one appointed a hero by some supernatural force? I think it’s the former. Man’s mind is what makes him heroic. That is, the capacity to reason over weeks, months, and years. Do my claims seem arbitrary? Observe some basic examples in life. The Olympian who praises God for winning a Gold Medal. What’s his lifestyle, his focus, his aim? Is a supernatural force involved in athletic feats? If so, why must the professional devote every waking minute to imagining, planning, and acting to achieve values like muscle memory, morale, diet, et cetera. Consider the honor student who pays her way through school. Note the student’s day to day devotion to a goal that, at times, is barely palpable if not seemingly impossible. Does she get her drive from some external forces? Or is the student’s engine fueled by her ability to conceptualize the setting, income, lifestyle, and happiness that’s obtainable if she’s loyal to her long range goal? What about Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III? Is he not a lucid illustration of the heroism one may achieve through years of dedication, passion, and study towards a purpose? Is his level of professionalism an inexplicable mystery? A quick search of Mr. Sullenberger provides one with an impressive list of accomplishments, goals, and lectures performed by the man. As an honest reader, one can only conclude that the survival of flight 1549 was actualized by Mr. Sullenberger’s mastery of his art. His heroic lifelong dedication to flight enabled him to calmly execute in the presence of an ominous disaster that loomed right before his eyes. In all three of my examples, the subjects lived like heroes well before they achieved a major heroic feat.
While waiting to be rescued, a survivor praised Mr. Sullenberger who simply responded, “You’re welcome.” This is the appropriate behavior of a hero—he does not boast about or degrade his accomplishments. To the hero, his actions just are. His decisions are based on facts that he has accepted to be true, and his knowledge has become natural and almost automatic.
I can project how some mistakenly conclude that a man must be overcome by an external force to perform a feat of heroism. That premise is based on a combination of tired and illogical ideas, but it cannot be excused. A good man deserves justice too, e.g. recognition for his worth. To find the heroic in men, all one has to do is think. Look at the details and identity of a heroic accomplishment. After some investigation one will find that everything leading to a victory has a logical cause and effect. One will also see that a hero doesn’t just simply survive, he lives.”
Yes indeed. Both “Sully” and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles are examples of man the hero.