Friday, January 16, 2009

Wow! And I thought I was having a bad day! Seriously now, the day doesn't really start getting bad until the pilot comes over the public address and announces calmly, "Brace for impact because we're going down." He's been hailed as a "hero" for bringing the plane down safely on the Hudson. He avoided the skyscrapers and bridges and boats, all with flaming engines, and then got everyone out into the 36 degree waters of the river (wind chill of -10) and ran up and down the aisle twice to make sure everyone was out (he was the last one.) Amazing.

It's also been called a "miracle" that everyone survived and no one was seriously hurt. In the midst of the crisis, one woman actually texted her husband: MY PLANE IS CRASHING, and a few rows over a mom and dad held their terrified three-year-old girl and nine-month-old boy. The stories are truly incredible, but I ask you: hero or miracle? Some of both? The media bandy these heady words around all the time.

Was it a miracle that the plane hit a flock of migrating geese? Was the pilot acting heroic in performing the duties for which he's trained his whole life? Are these fair questions? I don't believe in luck. I believe in a set of given circumstances where God asks you to perform. Perform well, and it affects the next set of circumstances. Perform poorly, and, well, it affects the next set of circumstances. The real question persists: Why me, Lord? I don't know why you. I barely know why me. I figure when we die, we can ask Him, and I believe then we'll be in for a steady stream of humbling surprises.

So does the Lord intercede with miracles? Sure He does, but it's still part of the set of given circumstances, and something will be required of you as a result. I've seen people act poorly in the face of miracles, and I've seen them act heroically at the events, too. And do people act heroically? Sure, sometimes the Lord asks us to take extraordinary measures at a heavy cost, but in this world the "heroes" are rarely significant, and the "significant" are rarely heroic. Google "top ten admired people" and J. Lo comes up. And I'll bet if you ask Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, the pilot of US Airways 1549, about his heroics, he'll say something like, I was just doing my job. Every pilot in the same situation would have done the same thing. Firefighters and Policemen and Soldiers say it all the time.

Just doing his job. Well, God bless him! I'm saying, the hard part of life is just figuring out what your job is, and then acting with integrity. It's harder than it looks, because it's in our nature to pity ourselves for our misfortune, shaking our fists at the Heavens and screaming that it's all unfair! and then claiming you deserve some just reward for suffering it all. Everyone identifies with that, but rise above your nature in this world and you will probably never be congratulated for it.

President Bush gave his farewell address last night. I happen to think the man "did his job" by making some tough calls during his presidency, and at the heavy cost of popular opinion (which, in this day and age, is positively heroic!) If I am ever proved right by this supposition, it will be long after the man is buried in the ground. Some say it was a miracle that we were never attacked in the seven years after 9/11. I say he gets credit for it. We'll see. In his last press conference, President Bush was asked if he felt that he was a "victim" of the circumstances that befell him during his administration. He balked, actually recoiled, at the suggestion, and then said, for the sake of the morons who just don't get it, "No."

I, for one, will miss him. I realize I'm in the minority. Obama takes the seat of power with a world of popular opinion behind him, and I happen to think principled decisions are even harder under those circumstances. I didn't vote for Obama, but I'm not one of these conservative republicans who gets on the public address and screams, Brace for impact because we're going down! On the contrary, I pray he succeeds at his job, and does it well. It's a miracle if any of us ever do.