Monday, October 29, 2007

You walk into the restaurant, all strung out from the road

Remember when I contemplated what the theme tune of my last 4 months would be? What song would be the one that I associated with my time on the road and what I'd seen and done ? Well, the votes are in, and Metallica's Turn the Page is the hands-down winner. And as with most of the music on my previous list, it's associated with bittersweet times and it was the first song to hit the iPod after I heard the news.

On Sunday, a good person whom I considered a friend passed away and I can't help but think on our mortality. My first thought was "Gods, no!". My second thought was "Shit! If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us". But my third thought - my third thought is the one that makes me feel like a traitor to the entire human race - it was "Yeah, but I wouldn't stop driving if he died in a car accident, now would I?"

Some background - Tonto was an instructor at JSC. He was one of the most conservative skydivers I know, but more than that, he was an amazing human being. He was the first guy to pack it in for the day and sit telling tall tales when the wind got up. He was the first guy to ground students if things looked dodgy. He was around for advice, or just to shoot the breeze. He cared, deeply and passionately about all of his students past or present, and took retention in the sport more seriously than 95% of DZ operators and instructors that I've met. But he chose to swoop.

When I skydive, I have about 1 minute and 10 seconds to sort my shit out. If my main parachute deployment goes wrong, I have 15 - 20 seconds to sort that out or get rid of it and get out the spare. If I get knocked out or just bored and stop paying attention to where I am and what I'm doing, I have a device in my rig that will deploy a parachute for me at about 700 feet. I've got options on every dive, and I've got time to try them. Tonto had around 20 reserve rides to his name, and he walked away from those. But it seems to me that with swooping, if things go wrong, you get between 3 and 5 seconds to fix them. There is no plan-B, there are no alternatives - fix what went wrong, or bounce. Swoopers know this and they accept this, so it's not my place to criticize.

I'm devastated by Tonto's passing, and that's kinda strange really. But I think it comes down to the fact that between him and Ed, when I was totally despairing of people in the skydiving community (and the human race in general), they showed me a different way, a different crowd and kept me in. Sure, these days I try to hang out with the old guys with hundreds of jumps on their rigs and no fancy gadgets, no brand new RW suits, no gear-queer accessories. I don't really fly with the yuppie crowd, probably for the same reason that I don't hang out with them in real life. But I have more fun.

My time in Hell^WAfrica taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that to get by in life, you have to be a little bit selfish and make yourself happy. It taught me that you really can't change the world all by yourself, but you can help individuals, and some days that is enough. It taught me that people aren't necessarily evil, just dumb, but when there's so much dumb around, it amounts to the same thing - they don't mean to be evil, but they are. It taught me that in a lot of ways, I'm not a good person, but there's hope for me yet. It showed me the value of religion but also the harm that organised religion has done and continues to do to the world. I learned that no matter how brilliant you are, without a decent team backing you, you can't do shit. It showed me that NO crime, and I mean NO crime is worse than a crime that makes people suspicious of other innocent people. I learned that people are all that matter, and the shit we have with each other needs to be water under the bridge and moved past!

But most importantly, it taught me that you only get one go at life and you damn sure better make the most of that. I think I've found a religion now, and I plan to look into that when I have the motivation and time, but even so, even if you do get reincarnated (or bumped from the load and have to remanifest as Tonto so artfully put it), you don't get the memories of this life, you don't carry those experiences on. You get one shot at this!

Whether you buy your plot of land in a gunfight outside a hotel in CAR, crossing the N12 highway south of Johannesburg (someone get that man a Darwin award!), strung up from a lamp-post in a 'Largely peaceful election, held in a carnival like campaign atmosphere' [ed: blame the BBC for that stunning turd!] or burn in on a skydive, chances are that you didn't get up that morning planning to die... Except maybe that guy on the N12, I dunno.

So stop fucking about here people! Stop watching your lives go by, get off your arses and make your dreams come true - No-one else is going to do it for you! It's not going to be easy, not by a long shot. It's going to be big and scary and hard. But it's GOT to be better than what we all do every day and wouldn't you rather have 10 years living, truly living, than 20 years existing?

/Lemming reconsiders being a lemming

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