Saturday, May 24, 2008

Seeing the Big Picture - from 40 kilometres up!

Back in my entry The Wii World, I talked about the unusual Canadian province I was born in and am proud to call my home: Saskatchewan. Everyone should feel a certain pride about the place they come from because, after all, every place is unique. Saskatchewan's claims to fame include first left-wing socialist government in North America, birthplace of medicare, pioneers in the use of psychoactive drugs to treat mental disorders, pioneers in fibreoptics, first adopters of on-demand hi-def TV over phone lines, and so on.

In the next few days, a 64-year-old skydiver by the name of Michel Fournier plans to use Saskatchewan as his base to break four different world records for skydiving. From near the town of North Battleford, he plans to use a balloon to climb to the edge of the stratosphere, 40 kilometres up, and break the records for highest altitude freefall, highest altitude human balloon flight, the time record for longest freefall (the plunge will take about 10 minutes) and the speed record for the fastest freefall. A news story about his plans is here, and his website which includes a countdown clock to the moment he plans to jump is here.

What will Michel see as he steps out from his pressurized capsule and prepares to leap back to earth? I hope that he will be able to take a moment to appreciate the vista that will stretch before him, something that no human being before him has been able to witness without actually climbing to space on a rocket. I'm reminded of Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, sixth man to walk on the moon, who has quite famously become a proponent of the more "out there" ideas of how Everything Fits Together, which would seem to have strong connections to the ideas we have explored with this project. Here's a quote from his book, The Way of the Explorer, where he describes what he experienced as he looked out the window of his spacecraft during his flight back to earth:

It was all there, suspended in the cosmos on that fragile little sphere. What I experienced was a grand epiphany accompanied by exhilaration, an event I would later refer to in terms that could not be more foreign to my upbringing in west Texas, and later, New Mexico. From that moment on, my life would take a radically different course.

What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness. I actually felt what has been described as an ecstasy of unity.... I perceived the universe as in some way conscious. The thought was so large it seemed inexpressible, and to a large degree it still is.

Seeing the big picture is what Imagining the Tenth Dimension is all about. And to French skydiver Michel Fournier, let me say "bonne chance".

Enjoying the journey,

Rob Bryanton

This entry continues here.

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