36,000 Feet

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Many of you have witnessed this dynamic  view from a commercial jet. This one was flying at 525 mph at an altitude of 36,00 feet. We must have had a decent tailwind because we arrived almost twenty minutes early. Typically, most commercial jets fly around 400 to 450 mph to preserve fuel.

Flying from the east coast to Kansas City, the cloud covering began to thicken as we got closer to our destination. I like clouds and find them fascinating as long as I am above them or below them…not so much when I am in the midst of them. Flying in a bus with wings is equally as fascinating. After the Wright Brothers, Bleriot and Curtis changed the concept of “lighter than air travel”, literally the sky became the limit. Needless to say, our lives have been changed forever.

Instead of taking a steam ship across an ocean, a stage coach across the plains or walking from one village to another, man’s expectations and ingenuity created newer and faster and more comfortable means of travel. Considering how we traverse the world (much less our city or rural countryside) we have leaped ahead a century into impatient people who can’t stand to wait a moment longer to board a plane , a train, a rental car or taxi. A far cry from not that long ago. Waiting was simply a part of life then and still is in many parts of our world.

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Perhaps the most daunting challenge concerning flying in this century is going through security and obtaining our boarding pass (if not done ahead of time). It is not just the process, but also there are a certain amount of travelers who are in hyper-mode and can be quite rude at times. Ever missed a flight? I have. Was it enjoyable? No. Did I survive? Yes. Will I travel by jet again? Yes. Although I haven’t traveled on Virgin Airlines to-date, I believe Richard Branson had it right when he said that air travel should be less stressful and more enjoyable. He had the money to change that and he created a new and different commercial airline company. Kudos to him for doing so.

On my flight back from Philadelphia I witnessed numerous young families with babies and toddlers. They were pushing strollers, carrying bags, pulling bags, walking with backpacks and children in arms. One would expect these parents would be the most rude and less understanding about all of the rules and waiting. Instead, I found them to be the most patient and pleasant of all the travelers I encountered. So, why are those who have the most issues to deal with the most patient and pleasant. Perhaps dealing with issues on a regular basis, and knowing what to expect prepared them for the task ahead with the end result being worth it. Whether visiting family and /or friends or vacationing, they took all of the hassles in stride. It’s kind of like our ancestors did before technology “simplified” our lives. I appreciated the 36,000 feet ride back home more than ever…even with babies crying.

Coming of Age

The term Coming of Age is roughly translated to mean the period when a youth transitions into an adult. Ages vary from culture to culture, but the adolescent years are generally considered to be in-sync with this term. Sometimes this period is marked by special ceremonies which celebrate this passage from childhood to adulthood. However it is defined (or wherever) there is a universal sense about this period in one’s life. In America, many adults recall this season with fondness. Like the carnival sign below, very often our youth is remembered as a magic carpet ride, full of fun, fun, fun and zero difficulties or troublesome issues. That’s not exactly how I recall my youth, although there were plenty of fun times and the occasional magic.

The other morning – without any forethought – I began to think about this term which, in turn, took me back to my childhood, through my teen years and into the early adult years. Funny how the mind works sometimes because I can’t figure out what triggered this avalanche of mental images. Although this piece may seem like a vain trip down nostalgia’s road, this is not what I want to explore or present. Rather, I desire to probe the era where so much change occurred and I developed so many of my habits, convictions, perceptions and responses to life’s challenges. Perhaps some of my examples may resonate with you.

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My childhood years were pretty wonderful with few cares in my world. The only serious issues during this period were my asthma which put me in the hospital on a pretty consistent basis, and my mom’s second divorce. Life for me and my family wasn’t always easy, especially as we entered our second decade of living, and there were real hardships, and even dysfunction for a while, but mostly the memories are positive, and I count my blessings. Memories are powerful and can transform my mood in either direction. When the bad ones pop up, I strive to reject them so they won’t haunt me. When the good ones sprout I grab onto them and relish their soothing effect on my soul. Memories, moods and behavior are inseparably linked.

Enter adolescence with the exuberance and the baggage that comes with it. These are the years that most think about when a child develops into a young adult. Do you remember? Some days I would be on top of the world-I could hardly stand how great I felt- and other days I was so uncertain of myself and growing up that I barely coped. Mood swings, the blues, jumpin’ for joy at times, and periods of serious contemplation attended these lean years of growing up. Life seemed either superbly great or fearfully awful. Certainly there were many mundane days, but life as an adolescent seemed like an uncertain adventure most of the time.

Those were the days of close friendships and enemies; independence and peer pressure; standing tall and compromising; achieving and failing; caution and recklessness; confidence and self-doubting; dares and stupid follow-throughs; puberty, attractions, dating and lots of questions; first loves, first jobs, heartaches and disappointments; courage and fear; learning and repeating the same mistakes; muscle cars and fist fights; rock-n-roll and solitude; learning and ignoring; war and peace; politics-good and bad; Wide World of Sports and soap operas; bell bottoms, mini-skirts and ugly glasses; drugs and the war on drugs; family mealtimes and TV dinners; regular visits to the moon and ballistic missiles; peace rallies and riots; drag racing and getting caught; hanging out and clicks; drive-in movies and drinking. Yes, we had it all during my coming of age years, and I probably just touched the surface.

My later teen years morphed into the early twenties and shared some of the same dynamics as adolescence, but not nearly as extreme. Maturity began to overcome the child in me and what I learned actually made sense. I began to see the world in a different light and comprehended the vastness of the universe and complexities of life. There were many wonderful moments during these years, and there were just as many tough ones, but they all contributed to my development into the person I am today. During this period of my life I was similar to most other young persons, in that I thought I knew more than most adults-including my parents. You can laugh now! Time and the School of Hard Knocks have taught me the folly of such thinking.

It has occurred to me that our entire lives are really coming of age times. As we mature we become wiser, thereby reducing the mistakes, failures and mishaps. Obviously, we are never free of these negatives and their consequences. On the flip side, the positives and their consequences accompany us, as well. Each day…each year produces new experiences and sensations; some feel completely fresh and alive while others seem routine and pedestrian. Some are short-lived and others stretch-out for what seems to be too long. Regardless, we are still coming of age in the same way as when we experienced the transition from adolescence to adulthood. I believe the difference is one of perspective: the traditional concept is more or less age-based, while our current transitions are reflective-based. By that, I mean we transition from one level of understanding to another through the process of evaluating the past, present and future. We have a lifetime of experience and learning to fall back on. As we are constantly being presented with new and challenging concepts and situations, we can respond with increasing assurance.

What was once a mystery usually turns out to be a truth or a lie. Yet, some ambiguity remains in our lives because we live in a world with ever-changing dynamics. We are finite creatures with limitations which restrict our full understanding about everything we encounter. This frustrates many…the not knowing. That is not to say I turn my back on education; by no means! For each new day we probe deeper and deeper into the unknown, we discover abundant and new facts which challenge and change us. This is a wonderful thing about being human. However, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking we can know ‘it ‘ all…we will always be left wanting.

For me, the only constant is found in a God who was and is and always will be the same. This is my reality. I recognize it is not everyone’s. I find security in this truth, for no matter how much chaos surrounds me, I know God doesn’t panic or wring His hands wondering what will happen next. He has it all figured out for He is sovereign over all creation. Amazingly, all He asks of me is to simply trust Him. And, I do. Hopefully, you do, too. The ultimate coming of age will occur when I see His glorious face in the light of eternity.