My Magnificent Adventure

⚽ In 1893 Frank Sprague installed the first modern elevators in Manhattan’s Postal Telegraph Building in New York City (he later sold his company to Otis Elevator).  This one act started the rise of tall buildings in that city and seeded the spread nationwide.  It’s estimated that the world’s cities now hold more than half the world’s population, but less than 3% of its land.  I was 14 years old (1955) when I took my first elevator ride.  My Dad loaded Mom, Jerry (my brother), and me, into our family car (1952 Hudson) and drove for eleven hours on Route 460 from our home in southwest Virginia (Oakwood) to visit Mom’s sister (Aunt Letha) in the eastern part of the state (Suffolk).  The next day Dad and Uncle Aaron took Jerry and me into town, and we walked into a building with four floors.  Upon entering, we walked over and stepped into a small room with an open door.  Uncle Aaron pushed a button, and it closed.  I glanced up at him with a puzzled look on my face and he returned my glance with a smile.  Suddenly, the floor started moving upwards and my brother and I had absolutely no idea what was happening.   Jerry started crying and held onto Dad’s leg, but being 16 months older, I refused to do so.  Both men could see the look of shock on my face and were unable to contain their amusement, bursting into laughter.  Within a minute it stopped, the door opened, and we got out and walked into an office of some sort for Dad & Uncle Aaron to do some business.  As I sat there waiting for their conversation to end, I tried to understand what had just happened.  Never before had I seen a floor move upwards on its own. What made that happen?  Twenty minutes later we walked out of the office and into that small room again. The button was pushed as I watched intently, then the door closed, and the floor started moving downwards.  Wow, now I was really confused!  What decided which way the floor was going to move?  In a few seconds the floor stopped moving, the door opened, and we left the building headed for the car parked around back.

As we rode home, I couldn’t wait to tell Mom & Aunt Letha about the magic I had just witnessed!  I was sure they wouldn’t believe me. There were flying carpets in my comic books, but I always knew that was make believe.  I had never ridden on a flying carpet, but I had ridden on a flying floor. This was big!  When we arrived, Dad and Uncle Aaron stood around with big smiles as my brother and I described our magnificent adventure to Mom & Aunt Letha.  They played along with the men and acted as surprised as my brother and me. That night I went to bed wondering what else this wonderful world had to offer?  If floors could fly, when would cars be able to fly, or could we humans learn to fly?  I dropped off to sleep wondering how much magic was still left for me to discover and a feeling of warmth deep inside me made me sleep with a smile on my face the entire night.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner” …Collette

⚽ I live in a small town on the east coast of Virginia and our area has a lot of military men and women.  The coasts of the United States are dotted with more than three dozen naval bases, the largest being Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, VA, which is just 20 minutes away.  It was founded in 1917 and is not only the largest naval base in the USA but also the largest in the world.  It covers nearly 3,400 acres and is home to approximately 150,000 personnel.  As you can imagine, we have people in our area from all over our great country.  Our economy is highly dependent on the money they spend.  We also have our nation’s largest shipyard (Newport News Shipbuilding) with a workforce of about 25,000. Langley AFB, with over 9000 military & civilian personnel, sits next door to our small community and the roar of aircraft is always present.  A favorite saying locally is that the aircraft sounds are not noise but “The sound of freedom”.  Fort Eustis is our local Army base (5,000 military) and is also an integral part of our community.  Just in case you are wondering, I’m not  divulging sensitive information, it is all publicly available and is, of course, only estimates.  I served in the US Air Force in the early ‘60s and my experience was that most communities under appreciated the military in their area and especially did not want the military men dating the local single girls. I was married, but I knew a lot of single guys that tried to disguise their military roots by wearing civilian clothing when they went into town. 

Today, our attitude towards our military personnel has thankfully changed and everywhere I go I see them being thanked for their service.  I think that is wonderful because I recall my experience of feeling rejected by the local community wherever I was stationed.  The only time I felt appreciated was when I went back home, where there was always a slap on the back and a welcome home greeting. 

In our local area, servicemen & women not only protect our freedom but contribute mightily to our economy.  Truth be known, we do owe them a debt of gratitude.  Yes, we pay their salary & they have good benefits, but a lot just barely get by on a soldier’s pay.  When I went into the US Air Force in 1959 as a lowly Airman 3rd Class, I was paid $75/month, and when I opted to leave four years later, my pay was $225/month.  During the last two years of my service, I worked part-time, 7 days a week, to give my family of four a decent living.  I sincerely hope we are paying our military better now.      

⚽ Abraham Maslow (Theory of Human Motivation) created a pyramid of mankind’s basic needs: Physiological–food, water, sleep clothes, shelter, etc.; Safety–personal, emotional, financial, health; Social belonging–friendships, intimacy, family; Self-esteem–feel respected, stable, recognition; Self-actualization–accomplish everything that one can; and lastly, Transcendence–giving oneself to something beyond oneself (altruism or spirituality).   

I think old Abe is on to something, beginning with our basic needs (food, water, etc.) and then as we move thru life, entering the other stages of his pyramid.  I can look at his chart and see my life as I grew older and how it felt to be in those different areas he described.  I am now firmly in the “Transcendence” phase of life, whereas my goal is to give myself to something beyond self-interest.  I believe most of us will ultimately arrive at this place in life.  In Acts 20:35, Paul says to the Ephesians; “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’”.

 However, during this time of tumult (COVID-19), it feels like a lot of us are sliding back into Maslow’s basic stage (Physiological) of food, water, shelter.  Grocery store shelves are barren as we grab everything in sight, fearing the worst, and attempting to insure we have what is necessary to survive.  I believe this fear of the unknown is a result of moving away from religion and relying only on oneself.  There were times in my adolescent life that my family was bereft of food, with little money to buy it.  But we had faith in a God, and we believed he would see we were taken care of.  Studies show that 60% of Americans believe in God, but only 23% of us go to church each week.  Our southern states (i.e. Alabama Mississippi) are “highly religious” 80% and our New England states (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) have the lowest percentage of those “highly religious” adults (45%).  The median church nationwide has, on average, 75 attendants each Sunday.  Since only 23% of us go to church on a weekly basis, that is, in my opinion, the reason we fear for our future.  Working our way through this pandemic will be decidedly easier for those of us that believe in a Higher Power showing us how to handle this tragedy.  It is up to us “believers” to show how our faith stills our fears and gives us the confidence we need to handle hard times. 

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) said it well; “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

Oh, How I Love Coffee

I have been drinking coffee all of my adult life.  My brother, Jerry, and I weren’t permitted to drink it growing up, Mom & Dad thought it was an adult drink.  We could, however, drink all the Coke & Pepsi we wanted.  So, for sixty years, I’ve had a morning cup of coffee (black).  I have been having some problems with my old ticker kicking into overdrive and racing up to 160 beats per minute (BPM) for about 5 minutes then quickly dropping back down to the normal 57-58 BPM.  I informed my doctor during my last physical that I thought I had A Fib (atrial fibrillation), but he thought it was tachycardia and, unless it got worse, I didn’t need medication.  Well, it has steadily gotten worse, so I did some internet research (naturally) and found that tachycardia can be caused by too much caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol.  Today (4/29/19) is my first day without my favorite Cup of Joe.  I am prepared for headaches, knowing they will arrive sooner or later, but I’m confident that eliminating coffee will solve my problem.  I guess I could drink decaffeinated, and I may eventually do that, but for now I want to see if that is indeed the cause of the problem.  I have been averaging 1-2 episodes each month, but the other day I had two within thirty minutes.  If it turns out not to be the caffeine, then I will visit my doctor for treatment.  An old Spanish Proverb says, “A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools”.  That certainly hit the nail on the head.       

 This past December, I bought myself a drone (Mavic 2 Pro), a rather expensive one, that will return home and avoid hazards on its own. I have been patiently awaiting good weather, and it has finally arrived.  As I unpacked that beautiful masterpiece of flying technology, I was impressed by its simplicity.  The propellers were folded neatly above its body, the high definition camera dangled prominently from its nose, and the remote controller easily accepted my cellphone as the command center.  I immediately put the batteries on the charger and headed for YouTube to find instructions on how to fly the darn thing.  I’m inclined to believe that anyone that ever owned a Mavic drone has made a video on how to fly it.  I am quietly storing the web address of the videos I watch so I can return to them as often as needed.  One guy suggested that I go to the website, “Skillshare.com” and sign up.  Well, off I headed to that website and they wasted very little time in asking me to fork over $100 for a one-year membership.  I might be inclined to do that if there weren’t at least 50 other people willing to walk me thru the process for just the cost of my time. 

   I am so looking forward to this new learning adventure.  I think we should experience new adventures as often as possible, for that adds the beautiful colors to our existence.  We should constantly strive to add color to our lives and that can be done so easily.  I do that by visiting friends and family, going to church, attending plays/shows, and taking a vacation several times each year (retirees do that a lot!).  I have given thought to standing on a local street corner and shaking everyone’s hand as they walked by, but I have never gotten up the courage to do such a thing.  Who knows, maybe one day I will do just that. 

Richard Jefferies said it so eloquently, “Color is a sort of food; every spot of color is a drop of wine to the heart,”.      

 I attended a church service a few weeks ago and our minister was extolling the virtue of being a “believer”.  He then calmly asked the congregation if there were any “idiots” present.  Of course, no one raised their hand, and I made a point to sit on mine so as not to be tempted.  He continued by explaining that in ancient Greece those who did not contribute to politics and the community were known as “Idiotes”, originating from the word “Idios” which means the self.  If you failed to demonstrate social responsibility and political awareness, you were considered apathetic, uneducated, and ignorant.  Our minister continued explaining to us that if you think only of yourself and not the good of the greater community, then the Greeks thought you were an idiot.  Of course, our general definition of an idiot runs along the lines of making poor decisions.  To most of us, we interchange “Stupid”, “Dumb”, “Moron” and “Idiot”.  Probably, the most offensive is a “Moron”, but the other three run a close race and would offend all of us if they were used in a sentence to describe our actions.  I had a close relative, now deceased, that used the term “Stupid” often to describe someone’s actions.  I always cringed when she uttered that word, assuming that when I wasn’t around, she probably hurled that invective my way. 

I stopped using those nasty words years ago when I realized that by criticizing someone in that manner it was saying more about my character than about them.  In fact, I was removing myself from the group of people that occasionally made poor decisions and placing myself with the group of elites that assumed they never do anything wrong. 

I remember distinctly the first poor decision I made in my life.  I was four years old and I took one of mom’s hairpins and stuck it in an electrical outlet.  I learned from that, and it never happened again, but it did not prevent the avalanche of “stupid things” that have enticed me all of my life.  I can recall two very bad decisions that could have possibly been fatal, but I escaped free of any harm.  I’ll bet a lot of you can recall something similar to that.  I believe the best we can do is to resolve not to demean someone’s character by using words that deride their intelligence.  We have all deserved criticism of our actions, but seldom our mental capacity.    

 It seems like TV has always existed, when in fact the FCC first approved regular scheduling of TV broadcasts by commercial TV stations on July 1st, 1941 (I was 6 months old 😊).  My dad purchased our first TV ten years later.  The majority of people in our world cannot remember being without television, but it has only been commercially available for 78 years.  In 1951, the world population was 2.5 billion and today it’s 7.7 billion.  That’s an increase of 5.5 billion.  As a side note, the population during Jesus’ time on earth was approximately 170 million.  I was certainly unaware there were that many people during his time.  The world’s population in 5000 BC was 5 million. More people are alive today than have ever died.  That’s astonishing!

 I’m certain that eyelids are starting to droop a little with all that information, but it justifies my conclusion that often what we think has always been just isn’t true.  It also demonstrates how much our world population has increased in 68 years.  It has been projected that the world population will stabilize at 11 billion people in the year 2100 due to the birthrate per woman dropping from 2.5 to 2.0, or less. 

Most of the growth will take place in Africa, and Nigeria is expected to exceed the US population by 2050 (that’s really surprising).

The fastest growing segment of our population is the 60+ age group, and that surely poses a problem.  If you factor in the age group 1–22, you have a lot of people that contribute very little to the tribe.  That puts a lot of stress on the 23–59 age group and necessitates a steady increase in all sorts of taxes.  

It seems our world gets more complex each year and that encourages us to yearn for a simpler time, when TV stations shut down at midnight, you couldn’t buy alcohol on Sunday, and most stores were closed on Sunday to honor the Sabbath Day.  During those “Simple Times”, about 60% of the US population attended church.  Now, it’s approximately 15%. Our US government is so embittered that they accomplish very little and some of our citizens have lost their moral compass. 

So, how do we resolve the situation we’re in?  I believe that when we, as a tribe, determine that our existence is threatened by those outside the norm, we will take the necessary actions to stop their destructive inclinations.  As long as we, as citizens, feel safe in our environment, very little will be initiated by us to stop those with evil intentions. 

I recall that as a young man (age 18) in the US Air force, I was standing in the chow line for dinner and a big burly fellow bucked the line and stepped in front of me.  I had watched him do that dastardly act many times before, and I had decided that I would never allow him to step in front of me.  So, as he stood there, silently daring me to do anything about it, I reached forward, grabbed his collar and jerked him behind me.  He looked at me and growled.  I quietly drew a line in the dirt with my shoe and informed him that if he stepped across that line, I was either going to whip his butt, or he was going to whip mine, but the least that was going to happen would be that I would hurt him a lot (I used a more vulgar term for butt).  He issued threats that he said would occur later, but he stayed behind me.  I guess the point is, I did nothing when he jumped in front of others, but when he did it to me, I did something about it.  And that will be when we, collectively, do something about the meanness and evil in our world.

Brendan Francis said, “Get in a tight spot in combat, and some guy will risk his life to help you.  Get in a tight spot in peacetime, and you go it all alone.”  I believe he makes an excellent point 😊.

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