Monday, 1 August 2016

On Gravity

Yesterday, for the first time in ages, I went to a hillside and tossed myself off. At an unfamiliar site and a in a crowd of unknown faces, I watched a while as more seasoned members took to the skies and novices trailing red ribbons tentatively made their first unaided launches. Once in the air a mixture of instinct and training and hopefully, good common sense, keeps you from dying. Oh yes, it’s a potentially fatal activity, paragliding and it isn’t for all.

But once you are riding the air it is much like all other solo, against-the-element sports and you sink or soar on your own decisions. Turn in lift, keep your sink rate low, watch for the signs and then, when mother nature turns against you, get out of there while you can; although you may defy it for a while, gravity always gets you in the end. I ended up too low on one flight and had to land-out, in a wheat field and walk back up. Hey, I need the exercise.

It’s a lot like life, or the stock exchange; greater forces than you command are always there, working away in the background. Cartels, ideologies, the law, the economy, society-at-large even; all are busily trying to change the world. Sometimes those forces align for good or ill and we get periods of calm or stress, but most of the time they are far from working in concert. Life throws up a bewildering backdrop of options, of paths to take, of ideas to follow, but when it comes to the shove the only one pushing should be you.

Advisors, experts guides, leaders, charlatan and honest fool alike, are rarely right about anything beyond their narrow expertise. Biased towards their own field they usually miss the bigger picture and the rarer big picture viewer often misses the detail. You want a mortgage, see a mortgage advisor, but don’t expect him to predict house prices. You want to know whether to take an umbrella tomorrow then check out the forecast but don’t rely on that for information about climate change.

Like gazers in an art gallery we stare at the old masters and each see slightly different detail. Move to the abstract gallery of media and we see totally different paintings. Events, people, images, words, both truth and lie, have impacts on our decisions in ways we may not fathom and responding to identical inspirations the same choices bring us different outcomes. It’s complicated out there and just when you think you’ve seen it all, when you think you have the measure of the thing, the establishment nominates, among others, Will Straw – a medicority in every walk of life – for a CBE... for failing, yet again. What are you gonna do?

Don't follow the crowd...

Life doesn’t have to make sense. There are few right and wrong choices. What matters is how you come to terms with the apparent madness all around you and more particularly, how you deal with the cards you are holding. You are not powerless; you don’t have to copy everybody else although you may want to moderate your differences. Just remember to live a little as you negotiate the flight of your life and never forget that in the end, gravity always wins. 


  1. Wise words! But you wouldn't get me up there for all the Chablis in Waitrose!

  2. In my early twenties many decades ago I foolishly paid 16 Deutschemarks (I was in the army stationed in Germany at the time) and signed up to a free fall parachute course with the Royal army parachute association. In those days I did not take on board that old military adage "volunteer for nothing" I did the very opposite and had lots of fun but parachuting was not one of them.

    Rapa used a 1936 De Haviland rapide that had Rothman's blazoned across it's fuselage and could carry 8 passagers with the seats removed. The first jump and I packed in with 7 others and the fear began I knew the coward in me did not want me to jump. It is funny thing about cowardice I did jump and did so 8 times more until an awkward landing fractures my ankle. The reason I jumped even though I never overcame my fear was my fear of being seen as a coward by refusing to jump was greater than the jump itself. Despite the pain I was heartily relieved that my fractured ankle curtailed my parachuting career.