It is the first unreasonable fear of every child…,
Before the boogie man and whatever waits under the bed…,
Before the cluttered darkness of the open closet…,
Before the things hot and the things sharp…,
Before stranger danger or scarlet fever…,
It is the first gift that our parents give us, after the fear of being alone.
“Don’t fall.” “Don’t Fall!” “DON’T FALL!!”
“You’ll hurt yourself.”
And we do.
But most of us get up again.
Only to fall again.
And maybe, somewhere along the way, we might learn to enjoy the falling, just a bit.
We tuck into a ball as we plummet back into the soft spring of the mattress. We crave the momentum in the downward arc of the playground swing, the stomach-knotting lurch of the rollercoaster car as it crests that first big drop, those precious seconds before the bungee cord snaps us back, the dizzy spin of the earth below as we wait for the parachute to deploy.
Most of us don’t go that far, of course.
We stay on the ground where we are safe. And that voice in the back of our minds, our parents voice, and their parents, and the whole of society contained in a single strident whisper, telling us that it’s too dangerous, that we’ll hurt ourselves, that we will fall down.
Because falling is bad.
Falling means that we have lost control.
Did you ever wonder at the words certain people use to explain the human condition.
We are “fallen” my christian friends are so eager to remind me.
There is a story they tell, about the first two people: They lived in a garden where everything was perfect and (almost) everything was safe. This couple had none of the worries that we face, on a daily basis, because their creator had not given them a moral compass with which to guide their actions. What he did give them, was a free will, independent of his own. This, one must assume, was a design flaw, because the very first time they exercised this ability, they were punished. They were forced out of their perfect protected garden.
And, we are told, they took the whole lot of us along for the ride.
As that story has spread, as it has been accepted as the root of all truth by so many, we have built a culture that is infected with a desperate fear of falling, a fear that stands in complete opposition to the most basic urge of our species. A desire that is imprinted into our DNA as surely as it has been woven into the fabric of our spirit.
We are born with the desire to hurl ourselves out of our perfectly safe little nests and into the unknown.
Falling, we are told again and again, is bad, is terrible and dangerous.
But that, my friends, is a lie.
The fall is an act of discovery. Falling is how we open our minds to possibilities we have never known or imagined. Falling is at the heart of the human experience.
Why else do we call it ‘Falling in Love’, if not for the simple fact that our perceptions of the world are changed and opened, even as our former illusions of control slip away?
There IS danger there, of course.
No journey worth taking is without risk.
But, I suspect, the more desperately we cling to our fears and our misguided perceptions of safety and control, the more perilous our eventual landing.
Better to take the leap running.
Falling is not punishment.
Falling is not failure.
Falling is Freedom!
Little Alice fell
bumped her head
and bruised her soul.