Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Yin & Yang of Flight

On May 30, 2009, I had my longest paragliding flight -- three hours and forty-five minutes. For those who've never experienced free flight, I encourage you to try it, if only once, because I guarantee you will see and feel the Earth in a way you never have before. It will be a moment in your life that you will never forget -- a moment in which you are truly alive, and thus a reminder of how all the moments of your life should be lived.

Yesterday the idea of Yin & Yang came to me and with it the image of its associated symbol. I made a note to explore it today and this is what I found:

"The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and in the valley. Yin (literally the 'shady place' or 'north slope') is the dark area occluded by the mountain's bulk, while yang (literally the 'sunny place' or 'south slope') is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed."

This is a perfect description of what I saw during that long flight in May, as I watched the Earth's many moods of light and dark beneath me. By "perfect" I mean poetic, accurate, and made true by the direct evidence of my senses. It is the precise and ongoing exchange between revelation and obscurity, backed by the strength of the empirical, that makes free flight both beautiful and compelling. I am honored to know the sky, to see sunlight playing over mountain and valley, and so it is my joy to be a pilot -- not passively watching things happen, but actively responding to and plotting my course within an exciting, changing, and challenging environment that requires the best of my judgment and skill.

I sit hanging in a harness from a man-made wing, driven solely by the forces of sun and wind. Thus I know the benevolent partnership that can (in this case, does) exist between man's technology and nature's creation. They are one and the same, if we let them be. The energy that powers my craft comes to me free of charge. We should design and power our civilization around this same idea -- our world must be a place in which unlimited energy is fully available and free to all. To do so is not impractical idealism. It is based in a reality that works. The yin & yang of flight helps me to see this. It allows me to see how seemingly opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, in turn, giving rise to each other. This model of thinking can be applied to every human endeavor. In our efforts toward harmony with all things, it is my hope that we have the good sense to employ it.