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Posts Tagged ‘optimism’

The Science of Falling

I’ve fallen a number of times in my life. One of my earliest memories is of playfully chasing after both my mother and father on a carefree afternoon , only to fall moments later and scrape my knee on a patch of concrete. Before that moment, before I may have even known the word ‘concrete,’ I learned that day that concrete, like a match lit underneath the skin, could burn like a raging inferno. So, too, the image of my own blood running down my leg, staining one sock and a shoe to match, is burned into my memory. And I’ll never forget that fall, partly because it may have been my very first conscious experience with falling. But, it would neither be my last nor was this instance my actual first.

I am told that I began falling long before I can remember. It seems gravity has had it out for me from the very beginning. Before I turned two years old, during a gray space in-between my birth and that second birthday, my mother was shopping with me (or vice-versa) one day at a supermarket. She turned her back for a moment, and when her eyes returned to her son, I had fallen out of the cart. On my head. I play my imagined version of the scene back again and again in my mind, each time changing the layout of the market, the faces of the people who may have witnessed the scene, the people for whom my falling is a memory instead of what it is for me, which is a memory of a memory not my own.

I have fallen on unseen patches of obscured ice. I have fallen down a flight of stairs on a toy tricycle. I have fallen into water and almost drowned. All these experiences falling, and I still manage to get up after the fact and continue on going. I expect that I will fall again, but it is not as if I keep on the lookout for the next time I might fall; I just keep on walking, or running, or skipping or… not falling. Standing tall.

As a result of all this falling, I’m starting to think we start to fall when we need to be picked back up again — or, to be more precise, when we need to pick ourselves up again. I’m starting to think there’s a sort of science (a reason, a purpose) behind falling. Perhaps this is my optimism shining through, but even with the pain I have experienced in each of these falls, I think something was gained. In chasing my parents, I longed to go to them, to be close. In falling, they came to me, we were close. In falling on ice, that experience tells me I’m moving too fast, not watching where I’m going. For the tricycle, I learned that it’s unwise to ride tricycles near stairways — another valuable life lesson. But when I was saved from drowning, when I feel into the water and there was nobody around to bring me up, it was neither a friend nor family who saved my life. It was a complete stranger — a man in a passing boat who shouted to me asking if I needed help, who then dove off, letting the boat continue to sail down whatever body of water we were on, to help me get my feet back on solid ground.

I’ll never know the name of the man who saved my life that day, but I will always remember the image of his boat sailing on without him, that on that day there was something more important to him than being captain of his own ship, far more pressing than ownership or material possessions, but a life at stake.

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As the years press on, we start to fall in different ways. We become practiced at walking, evolve falling into the occasional trip or stumble, and sit inside ourselves. We begin falling in all sorts of ways that reflect our character. Some of us all fall in line — we follow orders, we abide by the rules and do as we’re told. Others of us fall into place — we find a particular niche that fits us so well that it’s almost as if it were made with us in mind. Most common of all, we begin to fall in love.

And, boy, do we want to. For lack of a better way to say it, we love love. We crave it, consume it. We require love to live. We live in a society predicated on love.

And I might have fallen in love a little bit today. For the first time in my life, I met someone completely by chance and we seemed to fall into each other. We conversed with one another from approximately 3:00 in the afternoon until 8:15 this evening, with hardly a break in the conversation. It was as if we showed up to work to find ourselves set up for a blind, impromptu first date with one another — but, contrary to the horrifying stereotype of such arrangements, we found ourselves glued to one another for the entire evening. Perhaps the science of this kind of falling is what they call the feeling chemistry between two individuals. Perhaps this sort of falling is another way of picking one’s self up from a previous comparative low-point.

Either way, no expectations set on my end, I know that I had a five-hour conversation with a brilliant, beautiful young woman this evening and that I fell a little bit for her in the best of ways. And when we fall in this way, our hope of hopes is that the other person is falling too, so that in our mutual descent we bump against each other instead of the ground — a contact of a different kind: that doesn’t leave bruises, that doesn’t bleed down into your sock, but that keeps the blood flowing and the skin a rosy pink, that inspires life as opposed to threatening it; the verve for continuation.

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