Monday, June 11, 2012

Anatomy of a Cliff Dive

In 1770 King Kahekili, the last king of Maui in the Hawaiian islands jumped from Kaunolu, a 63 foot cliff and pierced the surface of the water without a splash.  It was the first well-recorded cliff dive and he earned the nickname "birdman" for his regular leaps off the rock.  Today, cliff-divers regularly launch from over 80 feet in the air into the waters below.  The appeal is the free fall - the pull of gravity rocketing you towards the waiting water the height and velocity getting the diver to speeds of 32 feet/second.

Obviously, cliff diving is dangerous - so dangerous in fact, that even in the popular places where it's been made infamous, the activity isn't promoted.  It puts a lot of pressure on the body, entering the water at such a high velocity and if the body is not properly positioned (and even if it is) the diver can suffer concussions, broken bones, and spine damage.  I can only imagine standing at the edge, knowing what is at stake.  Cliff divers have a lot to think about...

Thinking things through hasn't really been my approach to making decisions.  I've always been an intuitive person, trusting my heart and that voice that speaks to me that is sometimes quiet and sometimes roars to life and it's served me well.  I'm not reckless and I don't make decisions without some deliberation but I just know, even with big things.  I have come to the realization that it's not because I am worldly wise, I'm actually the opposite.  My knowledge is focused inward, self-actualized and tuned in, and I've made plenty of mistakes over time, but I've never had any real regrets. It has all been for a reason and I'm at peace with that.

I know people who are more deliberate and their process driven ways fascinate me.  I was told recently, "Yes, I'm pragmatic.  If A=B and B=C, than A=C.  Everything lines up."  Ugh.  Math.  Math, however simple, wasn't my strongest subject in school.  Even in college when forced to deal with numbers, I far preferred the more abstract Economics math over the finite nature of Accounting and Finance.  And while I've had to get comfortable dealing with numbers I've always felt more at ease with words, even superfluous ones (ha ha writer's joke).  Outside the box is pretty much the only place I exist and while I appreciate those who not only live in the box but can articulate it's design, dimensions, and efficiencies I am rarely speaking their language.  Not better or worse, just different.

I think that's why the metaphor of the cliff appeals to me.  For the one jumping, standing at the perilous edge  they could think only of the dangers waiting in churning water below and what is unseen beneath it.  They could calculate the risks of the fall, a few degrees of variance between a smooth landing and a broken neck.  They could analyze past jumps and the chance for failure. And maybe some of them do that, but at some point the thing that made them want to be a diver, the reason that led them up to the ledge in the first place has to kick in... and in that moment just before they launch there is nothing left to consider, analyze, factor, or fear.  There is only the jump...so fucking jump.