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But, What If . . . 

Woody Allen-9.jpgWe live on a tiny speck of soil within a much, much larger solar system within a much, much larger galaxy within an infinitely larger universe.  To date, despite much speculation, this tiny speck of soil is the only one mankind has discovered that comes even remotely close to supporting life as we know it.  We are dependent on a myriad assortment of chemical reactions and gaseous compositions to maintain this life.  The things that could go wrong that would bring down the curtain on our lives are legion.  A little change in the earth's gravitational pull; a bit less nitrogen in our atmosphere, a bit too much radiation from our sun, etc., etc.  Suffice it to say that our position on this speck of soil is fairly tenuous.  Life, when viewed from the perspective that we are so fragile, can be pretty scary.  Of course, those types of things mankind really cannot control, but when we consider all of the things mankind does control, life gets even scarier.  We, mankind, seek to kill each other in large numbers all over the globe.  We wage war; we pollute our environment; we hate our neighbors. Terroists will kill innocents anywhere and anytime they have the opportunity for ends that are never well defined.  Well, you get the picture.  Our lives are fraught with uncertainty.  Individually we face many situations about which we have little control.   Yet we are still here.  In spite of all of the threats, both natural and man made, mankind has survived for thousands of years.  He has always carried on, trying to plan for his future despite knowing that many things are beyond his control.

 We want certainty in our lives.  More accurately, we want certainty that the future will play out as we plan for it to, and we really cannot have that certainty, at least not in this life.  There are just too many things that we cannot control.   Of course, there are some things that we can control and our plans for the future should pertain to those things.  We can control, to a certain extent, how much of our resources we devote to various pursuits.  We can choose what we eat.  We can control, to a degree, whom we associate with.  We can reasonably make plans about where we will live and what type of avocation we want.  We can plan for our children's education, and we can even plan for our eventual retirement.  We can and should make plans for all those things and more.  To stumble through this life with no thought for the future is foolish.  One of the things that separates us from the lower forms of animals is our realization that we need to make plans for our future all the while knowing that those plans may not come to fruition as we hope.  This should in no way deter us from making our plans however, for as one of my heroes, Coach John Wooden once said, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."  I suppose that is another way saying that no one plans to fail, they just fail to plan!

One of the issues that can hinder our planning process is allowing the "what if" effect to have too much influence.  A popular commercial for a financial firm today says its products will help you handle the "ifs" in life.  This firm wants to sell you insurance, and I truly believe in insuring those things in your life that you simply cannot afford to lose.  We truly need to plan for the "ifs" in life, but we cannot let them frighten us into failing to plan or failing to set goals or pursue our dreams. 

I have seen the "but, what if. ." effect in my own life recently as I planned for my approaching retirement.  The thought that I am shortly to walk away from a pretty good gig, the only civilian job I have ever known, occasionally frightens me.  I am pretty sure I am ready for this change, but I still catch myself asking " but what if."   "But what if" I am not ready to retire and do not discover this fact until it is too late?  "What if" I have not saved enough?  "What if" I desperately miss flying?  "What if" I am bored to tears when I no longer get to take a 4 day trip each week?  What if. . .  What if. . .  What if. . .  "What if" has gotten in the way of many a dream and many a pursuit.  "What if" has kept people in jobs they hate and kept some from reaching their full potential.  "What if" can be both a blessing and a curse.  It can force us to face reality, but it can also frighten us into inaction; it can force us to accept less than the best from ourselves. The "What if" demon can only be faced down when we are confident we have planned as well as we can; when we know that we have investigated all there is to investigate; when we have learned as much as we can about whatever it is we want to do; and then we "jump in the water" and leave the rest up to our God.

Woody Allen is credited with saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."  I suppose there is a kernel of truth to this if by it he means that it is ultimately God who is in control.   Woody Allen, however, is not the first to come to my mind when I think of spiritual guidance.  I am reminded of a much wiser man who, over 2,000 years ago wrote, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." (Proverbs 16:3)  So, make your plans, dream your dreams, set lofty goals.  Where ever we are in life, we need dreams, big dreams, and with those dreams, big plans.  It is perfectly normal to allow the "But what if. ." demon to make you cautious; just don't let it deny you your dreams.  Just remember, first commit to the Lord. . .


Fly/Drive Safely

15 July 2010

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    Superb Web site, Carry on the fantastic work. Thanks a ton!
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    Retirementflightplans - Journal - But, What If . . .
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