A Moment of Immortality


I watched him strap on his harness and helmet, climb into the cockpit and, minutes later, a black dot fell off the wing two thousand feet above our field. At almost the same instant, a white streak behind him flowered out into the delicate, wavering muslin of a parachute - a few gossamer yards grasping onto air and suspending below them, with invisible threads, a human life, a man who by stitches, cloth, and cord, had made himself a god of the sky for those immortal moments.

A day or two later, 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 wing, through a hurricane of wind, clinging onto struts and wires hundreds of feet above the earth, and then giving up even that tenuous hold of safety and of substance, left me with 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 a deeper reason for wanting to jump, a desire I could not explain. It was that quality that led me into aviation in the first place - it was a love of the air and sky and flying, the lure of adventure, the appreciation of beauty. It lay beyond the descriptive words of man - where immortality is touched through danger, where life meets death on equal plane; where man is more than man, and existence both supreme and valueless at the same instant.

Charles A. Lindbergh

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