When I decided that I too must pass through the experience of a parachute jump, life rose to a higher level, to a sort of exhilarated calmness. The thought of crawling out onto the struts and wires hundreds of feet above the earth, and then giving up even that tenuous hold of safety and of substance, left me a feeling of anticipation mixed with dread, of confidence restrained by caution, of courage salted through with fear. How tightly should one hold onto life? How loosely give it rein? What gain was there for such a risk? I would have to pay in money for hurling my body into space. There would be no crowd to watch and applaud my landing. Nor was there any scientific objective to be gained. No, there was deeper reason for wanting to jump, a desire I could not explain.
Charles Lindbergh was on to something there; when I signed up for my First Jump Course in pursuit of a new hobby, I could fathom nary an iota of the love affair with the sky that would develop from those first steps.
The process was not without typical human doubt and apprehension:
"Why am I doing this? What am I trying to prove?"
Stepping out onto the strut, pushed towards oblivion by a prop wash stronger than any wind I had yet felt, fear gave way to focus. Those long hours of training and drills had finally marched to the point of application; no room for error, no time for hesitation.
As I let go of the strut, of the final tether which comforted me with its illusion of connectedness with the Earth, I fell into an answer to the last question.
"Why am I doing this?"
I found an answer that escapes my capacity for elucidation, but an answer that has me returning to the breast of oblivion again and again for as long as I am able.