Falling and flying


“Funny how falling feels like flying, for a while.”

Lyrics to “Fallin’ and Flyin'”, from the soundtrack of ‘Crazy Heart’

I never really learnt how to swim until I was fourteen, although my father did try to teach me when I was six years old. I remembered how he would support me with his arms, as I emulated the swimming moves. But every time he let go, I would immediately become terrified and quickly got back into a standing position. (It was a children’s pool and the water was only up to my head) This went on for quite a while until, I gave up, embarrassed by my constant failure to overcome the fear of drowning.

Fortunately, learning how to cycle was a lot easier. I was around twelve years old then, and was visiting a relative in Malaysia. My cousin decided to teach me how to ride a bicycle. He would hold the bicycle steady as I pedal, but each time he let go, I would quickly put both feet on the ground. This lasted for an hour, until he was called back into the house, leaving me to my own devices. I must’ve tried for another half an hour learning how not to fall before exhaustion overcame me and I simply had no energy left to focus on not falling. I decided to just make sure I make at least one full rotation with the pedal. And when that happened, I had to make another rotation just to stay balanced, and another, and another… and before I knew it, I was cycling.

(I also finally learnt how to swim by not focusing on sinking, but in completing one full cycle of a stroke.)

I may have a slightly harder time learning these skills because I was a more fearful-than-most person when I was young, but we can all agree that learning such skills are far easier than the many challenges we face in life. And yet for some reason, perhaps because adult life appear so much more complex, and we stand to suffer so much more than a simple abrasion or having water in our noses, we tend to forget that rules that apply in Nature also apply in Life.

If the Universe/Life/God has a sense of humor, then it surely is demonstrated in the paradox that real growth and change always require a certain degree of “falling”. In fact, walking – an action we do to take us from point A to point B – is really a series of controlled falls. It is so natural to us now that we forget that walking is a learned ability. We learn how to walk when we were babies. Babies fear lots of things but if you have seen a baby learn how to walk, falling isn’t one of them. I’ve never seen a baby fret and worry about falling.

Many people talk about wanting a change in their lives. We read books, attend seminars, take up courses, etc. But not many of us go beyond that. (of course, sometimes you find out along the way that it’s not what you want) We all want growth and change, but at the same time we want this to happen without us taking risks. And yet our souls always can tell real change from mere pretending. Our souls recognize if it’s really us who are swimming and staying afloat, or whether we’re just mimicking the moves while someone else is propping us up. Our souls desire the former.

At the same time, we all fear falling. I do not know when this fear of falling began. After all babies do not fear falling. Perhaps the fear of falling begins at the point when we fall… and we remember how it hurts. Perhaps it is witnessing how others are hurt when they fall. Perhaps because society too often only celebrates success and frown on failure, we all feel the cost of failure even before we begin. And then we end up focusing on what happens when we fail. We end up focusing on the obstacles ahead of us, and we wonder how many hurdles there are. But at some point, the pain of remaining in the comfort zone becomes unbearable. But the point of change is always in the form of the edge of a cliff. Some people remain rooted at that spot for the rest of their lives because they do not trust in the reliability of their wings, or that the winds of grace will carry them. Others take the plunge… and discover that they had it in them all along, that in spite of everything they learn about focusing on the goals and objectives far ahead, the intuition that guides them only know one thing that is, the present action to keep from falling.

The next stroke. The next step. The next flap of the wing. We know it. We knew it all along. It is really that simple.




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