Sunday, July 3, 2016

Free Fall

Yesterday I took off in a small, 8-man airplane, ascended to 13,500 feet, and jumped out. After 60 seconds of free fall the parachute deployed, and I glided down for a smooth landing next to the small airport we left from.

I've been thinking about free fall since then. There literally are not words to describe what it feels like, falling from the height of mountains (actually, the exact same height as King's Peak, the tallest mountain in Utah), watching the patchwork of farmland below spin and slide, ears popping as my body accelerated to 120 mph, shouting into the wind and having my words snatched away before they even made it to my ears. There's no way to describe standing at the open door of an airplane and then insanely choosing to jump out. Every other thrilling experience, from roller coasters to rappelling down mountains, is just trying to come close to free fall. Free fall is the apex of thrill, the highest height, the most extreme extremeness.

It was so intense that my memory of it feels surreal, like it might have been a dream, or a parallel universe, or another life. The feelings I felt didn't seem to be part of this world. In a way it felt like it happened years and years ago, rather than just yesterday. Like a photograph of the sun has too much light and appears blurred and washed out, the stimuli were so powerful that my mind couldn't take it all in, and my memories are fuzzy.

And yet, I am absolutely certain that it happened. I am convinced that I jumped out of an airplane and fell at 120 mph. Even though I have trouble describing it, it really happened. Even if I never go skydiving again, even if I have to rely on memory until I am old and grey, I will remember that I jumped.

I've had other experiences in my life that are hard to describe. I've felt things while praying to my Heavenly Father that I have trouble explaining with words, things that don't really fit into the narrative of normal life, things so powerful that the memory of them feels strange and wonderful and a little surreal. My experiences after praying to ask if the Book of Mormon was true were like that. Same with praying to know if God is real, and if He loves me

But even if people question my experiences because they fall outside of the normal range of human experiences, or because I can't describe them in the same way I do scientific experiments, they were real. They happened. Even if years go by before something like that happens again, I can remember those experiences and hold onto them.

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