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The Right Stuff - "Who's the best pilot you ever saw?"

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Published on Mar 14, 2012

"In this fraternity...the world was divided into those that had it and those who did not. This quality, this it, was never named, however, nor was it talked about in any way. As to just what this ineffable quality was...well, it obviously involved bravery. But it was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life. The idea seemed to be that any fool could do that...No, the idea here (in the all enclosing fraternity) seemed to be that a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning moment-and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day, even if the series should be infinite-and, ultimately, in its best expression, do so in a cause that means something to thousands, to a people, to a nation, to humanity, to God. Nor was there a test to show whether or not a pilot had this righteous quality. There was instead, a seemingly infinite series of tests. A career in flying was like climbing one of those ancient Babylonian pyramids made up of a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even-ultimately, God willing, one day-that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite who had the capacity to bring tears to men's eyes, the very Brotherhood of the right stuff indeed." Tom Wolfe

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