A few of the times I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane I thought it would help speed me to wherever I was going in record time. And isn’t that just like America: We’re a country that doesn’t know where we are going but determined to set a speed record getting there.
Which brings me to Fearless Felix Baumgartner. Last weekend he was the first sky diver to break the speed of sound. It took the native Austrian daredevil less than 10 minutes to jump from 128,177 feet — that’s nearly 24.5 miles high! – before alighting on the New Mexico desert, softer than a butterfly on sore feet.
But what should be much more poignant is not how fast he fell to earth, but how much more time was demanded, riding on the boneyards of others’ successes and failures, to actually climb to the height of the stratosphere’s precipice.
It not only took the 43-year-old modern day Evel Knievel 2 hours and 37 minutes for his 30-million-cubic-foot, 55-story ultra-balloon to ascend to that loftiness. But it exacted a lifetime of 2,500 lower jumps and higher technology to leap into those record books.
And while that may appear to be a simple minded notion – it does take regular reminding. Often times it is merely a simple notion that makes most any kind of achievement in this ‘forcocktah’ world so damn well-worth minding.
So, contrary to popular catchphrases, it ain’t speed that kills you. It’s lack of education, discipline and sacrifice.
First of all it is ineluctable that man must go fast because our race is always against time. In fact, as with Baumgartner, if everything eventually seems to be under control you probably aren’t going fast enough to keep the gray away.
What does kill you, however, isn’t hurtling down, but overcoming the contentious obstacles in climbing up to the record heights where you strive to exalt. Even if you are assiduous in planning and execution it often demands a measure beyond man’s roaring audacity.
You need more than good karma. There must practically be an alignment of the sun, the moon, the stars as well as the gods and their indifferent forces of nature. Much like one of the gratuitous laws of social behavior: No matter how many women you assign to accelerate and assist, it still takes nine months for the baby to be born.
Which brings me to an unpaid political commercial. It concerns the choices – and mostly choice words – that the men who-would-be-our-next-President are stuffing into us turkeys for the upcoming Big Election.
Even though neither man seems to be able to cast more than a snake’s shadow of true promise, both the President and his Republican contender appear earnest .They spew noble intentions to help raise the country out of its deep descent into this long financial and economic abyss.
Indeed, this is the ineffable black hole that ‘W’ Bush and his V.P. Dick dumped and crammed up everyone’s ass except their own.
And, undeniably, the evil was inflicted at a hurried, impetuous speed that broke the sound barrier. But there is no one more deaf than a person who refuses to listen. And we hoi polloi were too fat, stupid and distracted to hear the sonic booms. That is, even though they were far greater and louder than any potential explosion of any putative Weapons of Mass Destruction.
As Baumgartner put it: “Sometimes you have to get very high to see how very small (and stupid and insignificant) we are.”
‘We’ being us little doofuses easily distracted by football, paltry $300 Bush rebates and laws that become issues because they have no alchemy and only serve as hocus pocus. For instance, just chew and eschew the very un-Patriotic Act. Another anathema to our constitutional right of free speech.
And meanwhile, both Prez Obama and Guv Romney are telling us the same thing: That relief will come and can come. We can climb and be divine again. But not without suffering and pain – more than merely the loss of perceived entitlements and other virtual-reality TV reruns.
As we all must readily acknowledge: No pain. No gain!
The difference in their words is that Obama appears to be candy-coating the inevitable pain for the poor, while Romney looks to be mollycoddling any potential suffering for the rich.
No matter. It’s going to hurt far greater in far greater numbers than any colonoscopy. No matter whom we elect. One or the other has little choice but to forcefully shove whatever is the medicine de jour up most every man’s, woman’s child’s, alien’s, dog’s, goat’s tadpole’s sheep’s, chicken and chump’s submissive rectums.
But of course! Give me all you gots! And make it hurt!
The descent into hell was one grand party. But now is the time, as my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy often espoused between those omnipotent puffs on his omniscient corn cob pipe, that we pay the price. As we do for anything and everything.
The climb back up to the grand apex where we started the great fall into our dark age requires courage and sacrifice. And for us, like Baumgartner, we must be tenacious. It can seem slow. Nerve wracking. Discomfiting. Miserable. And at times deleterious.
Yet much like our skydiver we must learn to embrace our fears, as he did in overcoming his innate anxieties and claustrophobia. For it is only when we are fearful can we, as men and women, demonstrate courage.
If my math is better than the balance in my checkbook, Baumgartner’s well planned plummet to Rosewell was at a speed approximating 12,800 feet per minute. He was, at one point, dropping at 834 mph, or well over Mach1. At Mach1 you are rocketing at about one-mile every five seconds.
However, moving fast is not the same thing as getting anywhere – except as in Bumgartner’s case – down!
His descent thrust him to a speed and distance 16 times faster than his ascent. His awesome climb into the stars was at a determined and resolute 810 feet per minute. Not to mention 5 years of planning. And a lifetime of stanch preparation.
Once more, for the record, it took his death defiance nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes to step up to the dark yonder and less than 10 minutes to jump down onto the sandy terra firma.
And there’s the lesson for all of us should-be voters. Whomever you vote for ain’t going to provide no magic instant pill. As they used to say in Vietnam: It only takes a moment to destroy a village, but a lifetime to rebuild the ashes.
The rebuilding is going to get us all exercised. Not that most of our jelly-bellies couldn’t use more than a little.
So it should take courage. Not merely to pick a President who may be good for you. But one who is good for a country for all of us. As Baumgartner hopefully demonstrated: Everyone has limits. But not everyone accepts them. To succeed you must learn to love what you have been taught to fear.
Like I said, it isn’t speed that kills. The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. Actions always speak louder than words. Especially hasty words. For the trouble in talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony…