This should have been posted many Sundays ago, but I was waiting to get the in-flight videos & pictures from my hang gliding experience and still haven’t (if you ever go hang gliding at Eastern Shore I recommend you carry your own pen drive to copy the files onto). Anyway, I felt prompted to post it today, so I guess it’s better late than never. Please note that the hang gliding description below doesn’t quite do justice to the actual experience, but I hope will suffice for purposes of this post. I also recommend you play the audio track while reading.
So… 27 June 2010 was the day I first went hang gliding at the Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center. Amazing experience, to say the least! If you know me well enough, you will know that right from my early years I have talked about flying, becoming a pilot, dreamt of flying without wings, and claim to have actually done so as well. (Yes, I still do.) So hang gliding, for me, was like a fulfilment of those dreams and desires. And really, the season I have been in has been all about fulfilment, completion and restoration of many things right from my childhood that I desired, lost or totally missed out on (see Glee for more details). It has all been very exciting, with many surprises, both good and bad.
Anyways… that Sunday evening when we got back home, we spent time together as a family just worshipping, praying, listening to what God was saying and sharing it… For a long while I just sat there with nothing running through my head except the excitement of the day. Then, as happens many a time, my eyes were opened to look beyond the experience into the life values it taught me and it brought me to tears. So that’s what I want to share, but in order to understand where I’m going with this, I will have to explain the hang gliding experience itself first.
Most often, hang gliding is done by running off a cliff or a hill with the glider so one has high elevation. However, in my case, we had a tug airplane that the glider was attached to. The pilot and I strapped ourselves into the glider and the tug airplane took off with us in tow. Once we had reached a height of about 2500 feet, we released the line that connected us to the airplane. At that point, the momentum slowed down, but the glider did not drop. It got real quiet up there and we were carried by the wind, the only two creatures up that high in the sky as I learned the basics of how to read the wind, feel it, and make the glider go where I wanted it. I asked the skilled pilot a lot of questions that he patiently answered. I just enjoyed the experience so much and the pilot was one of the best too, so he taught me well.
At one point I mentioned that I enjoyed a dip and he thrilled me to bits by doing a series of crazy lifts & drops just for my enjoyment before we landed. The view from up there was just breath-taking, and I felt exactly like a bird. When it was time to say goodbye, I heard the pilot tell my brother that I had been a good pilot and had been fun to fly with, much to my pleasure. Maybe he just said that to everyone, but I knew I did pretty good and sure had not done anything he told me not to do, so I just took it at face value. 🙂
With all of this running through my head that evening, I began to see that in life many times we are led on by something – whether situations or people, sometimes good, other times bad – just like that tug airplane led the hang glider. We find ourselves going to new a whole new level, achieving great things, feeling “on top of the world”, and just having a great time. We think, this is it, it can’t get any better than this! And it’s easy to just get comfortable with where we are, often disregarding the need for progress and improvement.
However, inevitably there comes that time when we are faced with the choice to release, to let go of whatever has brought you where you are. Believe me, that’s a tough choice to make! There’s the fear of what ifs… reluctance… never wanting to let go or spiral down in despair. The truth is, if you don’t make the decision on your terms while you are given the chance, the tug will release you and leave you to face the consequences all the same. But once you do make the choice to let go, you are surprised that you don’t fall. In fact, it’s only then that you actually have the freedom to fly! It’s at that point that the real fun begins! You no longer are merely being tugged along, following something or someone else “in tow”… you literally have “no strings attached”, and you just soar!
Yes, it does get quiet as the tug plane pulls away, but it’s in that quietness that you can hear the pilot’s instructions loud and clear, with no distractions or noise to drown him out. You begin to really listen, observe, experience for the very first time. You pay attention to what the pilot tells you and follow his direction. You’re careful not to make any mistakes and jeopardise both him and yourself. And when you’re up there, you begin to see the bigger picture, the aerial view. You realize from that perspective, things that would otherwise have seemed massive are really tiny and insignificant, mere mites.
Panic might hit you occasionally, but then you realize you don’t have to do this on your own ‘coz whether you like it or not, you have the pilot strapped in right with you! He’s there to tell you what to do, talking to you, answering everything you ask, teaching you… he’s game for even the little things in life, the thrills and chills that make it more exciting and enjoyable. Sure, there is a time to land as well, and with it comes the, “You did awesome! Good job!” that makes you smile in glee, the turmoil of letting go a long forgotten thing of the past.
An old Pepsi jingle that’s running in my head at this moment kind of sums it up for me: “Freedom to be… Azaadi dil ki!” I can tell you it was no coincidence that my brother checked the mailbox that same day, to find his new truck registration in there. It reads: FR3 2 FLY 🙂