A few years ago, James Ernest designed a chaotic and highly entertaining card game called Falling. As he describes it, "Everyone is falling, and the object is to hit the ground last. It's not much of a goal, but it's all you could think of on the way down."
Dropping from a great height is a deeply ingrained source of terror, fun, and thought. Infants have an "instinctive" reaction to falling — though it's unclear what evolutionary purpose that serves nowadays, other than providing a basis for mock-scary play by adults who toss babies into the air and catch them. Then there's the classic joke about the optimist plummeting from a high building, who passes the fiftieth floor and says, "So far, so good." A person falls in love; an economy goes into free fall; we skydive and bungee-cord jump for the thrill of the plunge. Buddhism uses the image of falling in some of its meditative stories, as do many other religions.
The state of falling is a splendid and powerful metaphor for life. We all face certain death. But is our purpose just to hit the ground last? Or worse, to act as though whoever dies with the most toys, wins? Can't we figure out something useful to do on the way down?
Monday, August 16, 1999 at 20:27:00 (EDT) = Datetag19990816