I’ve been on six different planes in the past 10 days. In every terminal, in every city, I’ve been reminded of the deception of security protocols and the importance of faith. We roll our eyes as we get stopped at checkpoints and are forced to undergo pat downs. Once we actually make it onto the plane, our attention shifts to tablets, phones, and glossy shopping catalogues (I mean, who thinks to buy a stand-up desk when you’re on a plane anyway)—anything to block out the monotonous humdrum of safety protocols that we’ve heard too many times to listen with fresh ears.
What I noticed on my recent marathon of flights is that this type of dismissive behavior is actually encouraged, subtly. Through the language of the crew that opts for “rough air” and dare not utter the “t” word (turbulence), and the knowing glances of flight attendants who seem just as bored with showing us how to buckle a seatbelt as we do hearing such a mundane task explained—we are directed to believe that all is well. We are safe. These protocols are a matter of routine. We don’t need them, because what we’re doing isn’t all that dangerous.
And then, something happens to remind us that none of this is true. The truth is, we are not in control. The long explanations and safety procedures that we mostly ignore are, at some level, myths of capacities that we don’t have access to as humans. We don’t manage the weather. We don’t get a say in which way the wind blows or the strength of its gusts. And try as we might, we cannot control what other people, think, say, or do.
Does all this mean that what we do and say isn’t important? Absolutely not. Our words and deeds matter, but they aren’t the only things that matter.
So how do we make sense of our human limitations in a world full of tragedy, the kind that humans cause and the kind that is beyond human hands? How do we respond to Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas, to Irma and Katrina, to Weinstein and Cosby? The most important thing you can do with your life is to identify your purpose and live it; go after it with everything in you. No, you won’t stop every monster in their tracks. You won’t persuade every bigot to change their minds. And you won’t heal every ailment. But if you find the place where your passion and experience and talents meet, and you find the faith to pursue that work, you will have done enough.