You’ve probably heard the story of the man who was sitting in a window seat on an airplane flying across the desert in Arizona. The desert sun was shining white-hot on the parched earth below and the man was the only passenger on that side of the plan who had not pulled down his window shade to keep out the glare. In contrast to the other passengers who were sitting in window seats, this man kept looking out the window and actually seemed to be enjoying the scene down below.
Ernest Campbell was the pastor of the great Riverside Church in Upper Manhattan back in the 1970’s. In one of his sermons he offered what I think is a most memorable line. “It has been said that the two most important days in every person’s life are the day on which that person was born and the day on which he discovers why he was born.” The reason that line is so memorable is not so much because of one’s birthdate. The fact of the matter is that we rarely miss celebrating our birth date. The more memorable part is the second part – the part that has to do with understanding the purpose for which we were born. Sadly, there are too many people walking around today who have no clue as to “why” they were born. They have no clue as to what their purpose in life really is.
You may have seen the news this past week regarding the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling that a lawsuit filed against Apple can proceed in which IPhone users may seek remedy for what they consider to be inflated prices charged them for apps they download. I haven’t followed the arguments that carefully, because I can’t think of any apps I have downloaded on my smartphone that have cost me anything. All of the apps on my phone are free ones. Call me a cheapskate, but I think it would be silly for me to purchase anything that I can get for free.
Back in the 1980’s Larry Walters was a security guard for a Hollywood animation studio that produced children’s television series. He had always wanted to be a pilot, but had been turned down because of poor eyesight. His dream, however, would not go away. So, one day in the summer of 1982, Larry decided to take matters into his own hands. He went down to a military surplus store and bought 45 eight-foot weather balloons, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and had friends strap him and the balloons to a lawn chair in his backyard in Southern California. His intent was to float over the Mojave Desert at a relatively safe altitude, using a pellet gun he would take along with him to burst some of the balloons in order to land.
Have you ever set your hopes on something only to see them crumble into a bazillion pieces? Of course, you have. There’s not a soul among us who hasn’t found himself or herself in such a pitiable condition at one time or another.
Not long ago, NBC News teamed up with Esquire magazine on a study of the rage that characterizes American society today. They surveyed 3,000 Americans to determine who in our day is the angriest, what’s making them so angry, and, perhaps most importantly, who’s to blame. One of the more interesting statistics in the study revealed that half of all Americans are angrier today than they were a year ago. In large measure this anger stems from the perception that life is not working out for those persons as they always assumed it would. They see others as standing in the way of their progress, and they don’t see things improving any time soon (“American Rage,” Esquire, 1/3/16).
It wasn’t too long ago that Home and Garden Television attracted a good number of viewers with their popular series on “Tiny Houses.” Many of you probably are familiar with what I’m talking about. “Tiny Houses” involves a concept in home construction that saw people moving from large-scale home construction to minimalist footprints of something less than 600 square feet, which gives an entirely new spin to the old term “humble abode.”
If there’s anything that we Americans like, it’s the ability to have a plethora of choices at our disposal in any given situation. None of us wants to be in a position where we find ourselves limited in terms of options. When it comes time for us to make a decision about anything in life, our mantra is: “The more choices we have, the merrier we will be.”
Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker who burst on the public scene some twenty years ago with his astute observations of how so much of the social sciences – in particular, psychology, sociology, and economic theory – play out in everyday life. All of his books manage to make their way to the top of the best seller lists and for good reason. Gladwell simply has this knack for holding up a mirror to our souls so that we can see aspects of our lives that we knew about in our hearts by never bothered to bring to the surface for further examination.