The meaning of Felix.

Early morning Sunday, October 14, 2012.

What the world needs now is for an Austrian who shares his name with a cartoon cat to climb into a capsule suspended beneath a helium-filled balloon, climb twenty-four miles above Roswell, New Mexico, and jump.

This matters.

ES15Because while we have occupied this planet in human form for over a thousand decades, none of the billions of us who have come and gone in all that time has ever gone supersonic in free fall. If we don’t address this oversight quickly, how can we ever hope to know the meaning of life?

Late afternoon, Sunday, October 14, 2012.

We can relax. With 8 million of us watching, the man with a thick accent and pockets full of energy-drink company cash has finally given us reason to carry on. Forget that we remain $300 short of the mortgage payment and that rumours are circulating about a slaughter at the local Cineplex.

We have finally put a man on earth and we all feel a part of that historic accomplishment. If Felix can beat the odds, maybe we can, too.

There is something to be learned from Fearless Felix’s great adventure, beyond the proof that passing through the sound barrier wearing nothing but a full-body suit over soiled underwear won’t kill you. We face once again the fact that the things that drive us to dream and sacrifice and put ourselves in harm’s way make no sense at all when weighed against the human condition and the grim state in which billions of people live.

Or do they?

With media the all-invasive way it is, even a parentless, homeless and hopeless child trapped in the pit of some third world country will probably catch wind of Baumgartner’s plunge from space. When he does, the goat provided by World Vision may offer not only a way out of abject poverty, but also encouragement to dream.

We’re blessed to have among us some who respond to ‘why would you do that’ by doing it. These few inspire us all.

Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Everest ‘because it’s there.’ Neil Armstrong made ‘one giant step for mankind’ but what drove him to do it was more rooted in ‘one small step for man’ and how cool it felt to be the only guy ever to set foot on a lifeless rock 240,000 mile from home.

With fame and fortune beyond imagination, James Cameron ventured to the bottom of Marianna’s Trench to prove that there’s not much there. Something we suspected all along. Interestingly enough, neither Cameron or Baumgartner has made much of the benefits to be derived from their daring. That’s been left to the people who wrote the cheques and are pressured to rationalize their vicarious indulgence.

In the wake of Baumgartner’s fall from space, the efforts to explain it in terms that accountants and venture capitalists can understand began. We would soon learn that Felix’s leap would save not only astronauts in trouble en route to the space station, but also billionaires bent on experiencing weightlessness on a Virgin Spaceship gone rogue. Filling an eight story balloon with $65,000 worth of helium would lead to a new generation of party balloons and make it easier to talk funny at birthday parties. The technology derived from one man’s reach into the deep pockets of Red Bull would somehow filter down to cure cancer and enable us to drive coast to coast on a gallon of gas. No bull about it.

Why must we feel obliged to give meaning to everything from little Billy being squashed by a truck because ‘God needs an angel’ to enduring a flood because ‘the crops need rain.’

Its sad that we can’t admit that the best decisions we make, the ones that endure and drive us are expressed by ‘what the Hell?’

And just doing it.

12 years ago

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