Gravity is not a force to be trifled with

29 07 2010

In a decision quite divorced from any semblance of logical thought, I recently went skydiving as a way of celebrating a good friend’s impending entry into the world of monogamy.

What follows is an account of the experience I wrote for my weekly column at the place of my employ, that mighty bastion of journalistic might The Kentucky Standard. I apologize in advance for the tacky moral stuck on the end, but it is a necessity in the newspaper column business

There are some things that, from an early age, I have sworn I would never do. Yet at around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, I found myself seated on my knees with my head out the open door of an airplane cruising at about 12,500 feet.

Directly behind me was a man whose chest and legs were strapped securely (I hoped) to my back and who seemed very intent on exiting the aircraft, despite the fact that it appeared to be operating perfectly well. In fact, as we poised on the abyss — the flat, patchwork farmland of Illinois spreading out below us — he didn’t even seem to consider the matter worth even the slightest discussion. He counted to three and then we were out the door.

So, what could possess me, a person with a substantial fear of heights, to launch himself into empty space with naught but a bundle of plastic to ensure my survival? Well, to be honest, it wasn’t my idea.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Michael and I were brainstorming ideas for the bachelor party of our soon-to-be-monogamous pal Paul. We knew we would like to avoid the kind of affair you traditionally think of for such an event, but we were stumped on what could prove memorable enough.

Thanks to the web-perusing power of Google, Michael discovered the Web site of Skydive Chicago, at which point he said, “You know, Paul has always said he would wanted to go skydiving” and I said, “Oh no.”

When I was in sixth grade, I spent hours waiting in line for rollercoasters at the Six Flags Amusement Park in St. Louis before bailing out of fear. It wasn’t until two years later that, thanks to the persistent encouragement of a friend, I was able to complete my first ride on one of the up-and-down steel behemoths.

And now, skydiving?

Yet, as the best man in the upcoming wedding, I felt it would be a little bit less than best to be the lone voice of opposition to the idea. So, I signed up and adamantly set my mind to not thinking about it. A few weeks later, there I was experiencing the power of gravity first hand, falling at a rate of 120 miles per hour toward the earth below.

When I touched down a few minutes later, parachute safely deployed, I knew that rollercoasters would never compare to the thrill that I had just experienced.

Certainly, there is some risk to this extreme sport and the rare death is a reality of skydiving. But risk is omnipresent in our lives — from the foods we eat to the wiring in our walls to our walks across the street.

We combat this by securing our lives in routine, defending against dramatic shocks through repetition. However, for us to continue to grow, we must be exposed to new ideas, pushed beyond our limits and outside our comfort zone.

So, if you get the chance, step outside that aircraft, if only metaphorically, and let yourself fall a little bit before pulling the parachute.

-Originally published in the Kentucky Standard July 28, 201

On a rather ironic postscript, I want to note that at roughly the same time I was engaged in an activity well-known for its potential lethality and generally regarded as entailing a substantial amount of risk, Lauren (my girlfriend) was going on a bike ride in St. Louis. Though not without its own dangers, riding a bike is considered, on the whole, a rather typical and safe way to spend an afternoon.

Unfortunately, a hazardously placed piece of sidewalk caused Lauren to flip over the handlebars and the resulting fall broke her arm. Thankfully, the fracture will not require a cast, and with the help of some prescription-strength painkillers, she should fully functional again very soon. I am relieved that she will be alright, but I strongly condemn the sidewalk responsible for this heinous act and encourage the U.N. to issue the strongest sanctions available against this patch of rouge concrete.

An activity more dangerous than riding a bicycle, apparently

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One response

10 08 2010
Michael (yes, like in the Story

excellent journalistic drivel, I applaud thee

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