A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle
It’s been many years now since I was a new first officer rushing between flights in some airport somewhere. As I passed a bank of pay phones (yeah, that’s how long I’ve been doing this gig!) I was pulled from my thoughts by an uninhibited wail of anguish. I looked in the direction of the sound as I continued to walk, and turned just in time to see an elderly lady crumple and begin to sob mightily into the phone.
I’ll never know the details of her despair. But I understood in a second. How could I not? I, like her, was and am made of the dust of the earth. We are bonded by primordial, ancient, indescribable and unfathomable community. In that moment she and I – and you – were one.
I don’t remember what happened after that. My heart went out to her, but there was absolutely nothing I could do to ease her tragedy, so I’m sure I simply kept walking. I’d like to think I’d do something different today. What would you have done? All these years later, on the cusp of my third act, the one that will give meaning to the other two (thanks, Jane Fonda!), all too aware of eternity’s relentless proximity, I can come up with a host of other, maybe better, responses.
But I digress. My writing today is not about those responses, though I’d love to know your thoughts. Rather, I’m writing about Victor Frankl’s magnum opus, his 1946 treatise. You know the one: Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s been on my mind lately. A bunch. Too much. With an ever-increasing sense of urgency.
Frankl was a young neurologist and psychiatrist as WWII brewed, and had written the manuscript before the holocaust began. It was lost when he was interned at Theresienstadt. He recovered it from memory and wrote it all again after he was liberated.
So what brings that writing to mind today? And what does it have to do with the tragic episode beside the bank of pay phones?
Frankl’s message was, and remains, that life is not so much a quest for pleasure or power as it is a search for meaning. And that we can find or create meaningful lives through the persistent and inevitable challenges of life.
As I write, it’s mid-autumn of 2020 and the world is challenged – still. Many events need to happen before the world can return to a place similar to what we knew before. And in my small corner of that world, one of the changes that needs to occur is that people need to return to the sky.
So I see pilots and flight attendants and gate agents and tug drivers and baggage handlers come to work. We wear our masks. And, even in this crazy world in this crazy time, we offer people, that is, you and those close to you, the ability to engage in life in ways that would have been unimaginable only two generations ago.
People call me and send me texts frequently to ask me as an insider if it’s really safe to come back to the airport. I say as emphatically as I can that it is!
Had things been only a bit different, we might have delivered that elderly woman to whatever life event she desperately needed to attend – before it was too late. Today we have better planes and better schedules. And clean, safe air for you to breathe. And plenty of seats to take you wherever you need to go. Let us do that for you. Doing that, managing those challenges on your behalf, is our meaningful work. I hope to do that work on your behalf again soon.
I’ll see you on my jet!
Thanks for reading!