Compared to an eternity spent wherever you spend eternity, this life is nothing but a short free-fall…..
“Ready…….Ready……wait for it……Green Light!….Go! Go! Go!” The first few moments were a blur of noise as I pushed myself out into the dirty blue nothingness. Tumbling. Falling end over end, limbs flapping wildly in the noisy rush of wind. Panic began to arise in my throat and I grasped desperately at something; anything that could give me a bearing in my ever-shifting surroundings, but of course I found nothing. Oh I knew where ‘down’ was, I had no doubt which way my ultimate demise lay, but was I plummeting headfirst? Feet first? Would I see my end rushing towards me or would it slam into my back – coming as a complete surprise? For all my bravado before I threw myself into nothingness I desperately wanted to know. How long did I have left? Suddenly the length of time before I was embraced by ground zero was all-important, but the dials on my altimeter were spinning so fast it was impossible to get a reading.
Could I slow my descent, postpone the inevitable? I began to claw the sky, trying to swim in the air currents that I was drowning in. As I fell my heart rate rose, my breathing began to race faster; thoughts bombarded my brain echoing my outer turmoil. Could I survive impact? Does anyone? Does it hurt? Will I see it coming? Can I prevent it? Why me? If impact is inevitable why fight? Wouldn’t it be better to tuck my arms in and speed my descent into oblivion?
“There are other options you know”
I spun wildly trying to work out where the voice came from. Was the thought of imminent death sending me insane? As far as I could tell no one else had thrown themselves out of the plane so I was alone in my tumbling.
“I’m right behind you. Can’t you feel the straps?”
I reached up to my shoulders and explored. Two strips of webbing came from the top of my back, over my shoulders and then down tight beneath my armpits. A backpack?
“A Parachute. Everyone automatically gets a parachute before they leave the plane whether they request one or not. Scholars call it prevenient grace, but I just think it is a good idea.”
“But….but…..” I stammered. The difficulty of forming whole sentences while plummeting to your death was compounded by the fact that I was conversing with a talking parachute. “I thought the Eternal Parachute was a myth, most experts who have studied Free-fall claim that you don’t exist”.
“Oh what do those Jump Philosophers know?” the parachute said in a voice that sounded like the rustle of cotton. “They only talk about jumping but they haven’t experienced it themselves so all their talk is just that; talk.”
A sudden down draft sent me spiraling end over end and I felt a wave of nausea wash over me as the parachute suddenly spoke with a stronger, more authoritative voice.
“Right. Let’s stop that spinning; you’ll never be able to think straight if you want to throw up. Spread your arms and legs out and arch your back. Allow your body to stream in the wind. There. That’s better.”
The calm power of the parachute’s voice helped to quell my panic. Coupled with a decrease of fear and a lack of spinning I began to enjoy the fall.
“You know this is kinda fun. It’s almost exhilarating. I can see for miles, everything looks so small.”
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted some movement on the rapidly approaching ground. Without thinking I gestured with my left arm and began a sudden swoop sideways.
“Wow! That was great. Just like flying.”
I began to swoop and dive. I discovered that by moving my arms and legs in different combinations I could execute spins and rolls. This was a lot of fun.
I began to try more complicated maneuvers enjoying the pull of the G forces on my body.
I shouted aloud in pleasure. I never dreamed that free falling could be so much fun. I never wanted this to end; I could enjoy this feeling forever.
The parachute rustled angrily in my ear.
“I know that from up here the ground seems a relatively small thing, but it is getting larger all the time, so don’t you think that you had better prepare for its arrival?!”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked, slightly angry that the parachute would disturb my fun.
“See that ring that’s attached by a cord to your chest? Just pull that right now and I will take care of everything.”
“Really? That’s all I have to do? You don’t need me to flap or assume a particular position or something else like that?”
“No.” Said the chute. “Just pull that cord, I will open and you can float gently down to ground level..”
“You’ll open? But if you open I won’t be able to swoop and dive anymore will I? What fun will I be able to have then? Can’t I wait just a bit longer?”
I emphasized my point by executing a Triple Barrel Roll. I was getting good at this.
“Trust me.” Said the chute. “I’ve seen millions of people safely through their jump. Now is the time to pull your cord. Don’t put it off.”
“Surely I can wait a little bit, I really don’t want to be restricted by you more than absolutely necessary.”
“NOW IS THE TIME TO PULL YOUR CORD!”
I decided to try a different track.
“You know,” I said slyly. “Many people say that hitting the ground is an integral part of the free fall experience. I really ought to experience everything that this fall has to offer, after all I only get to do it once you know, it would be a shame to waste it because I was afraid.”
“PULL YOUR CORD!”
“I’ve also heard it said that the ground is really just an illusion, a transition into another state of serene bliss; but you can only achieve this bliss if you hit the ground full force so you can break through into this new Nirvana.”
“Look I was right about how to stop yourself spinning wasn’t I. Why should I lie to you about this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you have got ulterior motives or something like that. Maybe you are just a killjoy. How should I know what prompts a parachute to do what it does. I’m not a genius I’m just a jumper who is enjoying himself and doesn’t want the fun to end.”
“Look. I am trying to save your life. PULL YOUR CORD!”
“I don’t know. Let me think about it.”
I thought and I thought and I fell and I fell and I thought and I fell and I swooped and I dived and I thought and I fell and I……….