If you are trying to explain something simple to someone who just isn’t getting it, you have two options. You could say “Maybe I’m not explaining this in the best possible way. Let’s try another approach.” Otherwise, like most of us, you might say, “Pay attention. This isn’t rocket science.” The real truth is that life is pretty complicated; it really is rocket science.
Rocket science can be found in most college catalogs under the heading “Aeronautical Engineering.” The syllabus will include such topics as lift, drag, angle of attack, laminar flow and turbulence. The latter one is perhaps the most familiar, at least to anyone who has ever flown on an airplane. The unexpected appearance of turbulence is used as the prima facie incentive to keep your seat belt fastened, even when seated.
Flying, and life, are much more comfortable during those periods of laminar flow. Here, the physics are predictable, and the tradeoffs between lift and drag are evident. When conditions are right, there is much lift and drag is easy to neglect. Just like Pratt and Whitney help generate lift for an airplane, so do certain people in our lives lift us up and allow us to soar above the clouds.
There is a saying among pilots that “altitude is like money in the bank” and the way to get there is by increasing the angle of attack. In aeronautics as in life, there is a tradeoff and along with the additional lift comes an increase in drag. Push the attack too far and drag takes over, eventually forcing a choice between backing down or falling out of the sky. Planes, like careers, must always be on the lookout for a stall.
Most of the time, our flight is smooth, and occasionally it’s on time. Still, we are well advised to keep our seat belts fastened, as turbulence can hit when least expected. This is why, even though the airlines don’t serve food anymore, they still have takeout bags in every seatback pocket.