16 April 2012. Filed under category Life.

A friend asked me recently how my nomadic life was turning out. I cheerfully replied, “So far, so good!” He smiled and quickly filled in with, “… said the man who jumped off the Eiffel tower, halfway down.”

He said it in jest and with no malice, but the line still stuck with me. How can we be sure that we are not falling?

In the particular situation of the metaphor, most people would look down, see the ground coming towards them, remember the term ‘terminal velocity’ from their physics lessons, cross-reference that lesson with other pieces of experiences and correctly draw the conclusion that there will be a squishy sound at the bottom that he or she will never hear. (Or maybe it will be last thing they hear; perhaps something for a school science project to determine?)

But there are times when we have moved so far from our normal frame of reference that we just can’t tell anymore. My new nomadic life feels great and I think I am in control, but how can I be certain that I am not hurtling towards a sudden and crushing stop? Things are so dizzyingly new that I barely know what will happen next month, let alone in a few years.

The inimitable Douglas Adam illustrates this wonderfully in his falling Sperm Whale scene from the brilliant Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where a newly created sperm whale tries to make sense of his new and short existence. When you watch it, think of how you’d feel if you left your current life and began a new one as a rootless nomad.

Am I a sperm whale, too far removed from my natural element to realize that he’s falling to his doom? Will I end up living next to a dumpster, scavenging for scraps of food after I burnt both money and career chasing some stupid nomadic dream, or perhaps stuck in a foreign prison on clearly fabricated charges of indecent exposure?

Who knows? What I do know, however, is that if you let the fear of falling keep you from ever taking a leap of faith, then you’ll never get anywhere new and exciting.

We are all falling

For those of you on a ‘high denial/low cynicism’ diet, quit reading now. For the rest, consider this cheerful quote by Samuel Becket in Waiting for Godot:

They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.

You don’t get more depressing than that. It is true though; we are all falling into old age and eventually death. But if that fall is all we have, why not make the most of it? Spice it up with some spectacular somersaults and titillating twists! After all, ‘so far, so good!’ is preferable to ‘so far, so boring.’

Cheap Ass Games

The artwork in this post comes from the excellent game Falling by Cheap Ass Games. It is a card game where everyone is falling towards the ground, and the objective of the game is to hit the ground last. As the tag line says, “It’s not much of a goal, but it’s all you could think of on the way down.”

I warmly recommend the game. You can either buy it in some well-stocked game store or print it yourself from their website. Free and fun in a rare unison!

Travel Update

I’m really getting into life in Buenos Aires. I now go to Tango about three times a week. At first, I was never asked to dance and resigned myself to just watch the professionals strut their stuff. But lately there has been a change, and I am now taken out for one sensual dance after the other.

I have also–finally–begun my P90X workouts. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter to receive weekly and humiliating updates on my so-called progress.


Are you a sperm whale, falling through space?

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  1. Craig Brown says:

    First, thank you for giving us a vision of life after death! I know what that sperm whale saw after hitting the ground! Dreams of you tube videos, one of a black and white checked bathroom, another of elepants, another of a young Woody Allen, and I think that is a modern nomad eating a cheap sandwhich. Is this Heaven or Hell?
    Second, who is this stranger speaking of leaps of FAITH? Certainly not the cupcake meister with a budding website development career, prone to flights of fancy yet fiercely dedicated to reality, and with a plethora of a rock climbers’ dream hand holds to keep him up, some as high as 35,000 ft. No, the man I know will never be sleeping next to a dumpster. At least not more than one night. (The other scenario; jail, indecent exposure, ooo, that’s kind of prescient, careful there…).
    As for myself, although I kinda don’t think I’m a sperm whale, I don’t know WHAT I AM, let alone if I’m falling through space. I don’t even know what space is for sure. And if I should literally fall from the sky while working my profession, pulled by some mysterious “action at a distance” called gravity, I have no idea what will happen when the much stronger electromagnetic “action at a distance”, which gives the ground, the plane and myself an illusory sense of solidity and suddenly puts gravity to a halt. Maybe some kind of energy release, but I hope it’s not a YouTube video of Woody Allen explaining how he doesn’t “want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying.” In the meantime I plan to thoroughly enjoy this splendid phantasmagoric and HIGHLY IMPROBABLE thing called life. In fact, let’s all get together and help each other experience it to the utmost.
    That last part sounded a bit 1960ish and I swear I’m not on an LSD trip.
    But if I were a raindrop (rainpancake) I might be frighten about halfway down because there is a limit to how big a falling piece of water can get. To find out how big, and why, stay tuned to the essay “Water” coming soon to craigssenseofwonder.wordpress.com near you. Shameless plug, but we have to help each other right?

    1. Craig Brown says:

      It’s the next night and I’m down off my LSD high (just kidding!). The truth is, if we really dared to look down and see the ground coming up at us I predict we would all care a bit less what others think of us, what is normal or expected, what we’ve absorbed uncritically from our culture, and we would live more authentically, daringly, courageously. That could look wildy crazy or utterly pedestrian; the important thing is the passion you feel for it.

  2. Allan says:

    I do very often feel like the sperm whale. But, even more stupidly than the sperm whale, I know that the ground is going to bring to a deadly and brutal stop, and I have a parachute, but I do not open it. The ground is still hurtling towards me and the chances of the parachute working are getting slimmer and slimmer every second, but for some reason, I don’t pull the cord. Ignorance would be bliss.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      That is both creepy and fascinating. You have always come across and totally in control, content, happy and sorted. What possible fall could you be in the midst of? E-mail me if you want to elaborate off-record.

  3. crys says:

    Of course we are all falling. We started at birth and inevitably, eventually, we will hit something not condusive to a continued existence, at least not in the luggage we call our bodies. A lot of us have hit what we thought was that final stop sign, but it turned out to be just a foretaste of what is coming. It has nothing to do with old age, it, the final smash, can come at anytime, anyplace. I am not eager for it but I also don’t care if I hit the ground tomorrow. I agree with Craig,I have looked and seen the ground getting closer and I really don’t care what others think of me anymore. I also am able to give the rest of the world more slack as I know the ground is rising to meet them too. It’s all good. No worries.

  4. J. says:

    Self discovery while hurtling toward mortality. It’s what we all do in one form or another.

  5. Brother Henrik says:

    Helooo Brother i think i have told you before and i whil say it again, if your normadic life does not turn out the way you wanted you are allways welcome home.
    I dont like the senario about you living on the dumpster.
    And mum still cook delicius organic dish.
    Today we have roe deer steake on the menue 🙂

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Great to know there is a safety net at the bottom!

      1. J. says:

        I suspect your brother has nothing to fear. Upon further thought, I know someone with your intellect, humor, and good looks, will have touched too many lives to have you wind up in or near the dumpster. Now about that potentially impending indecent exposure charge, get to know an attorney soon…

        1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

          I look forward to seeing if you are such a sweet charmer in real life. The Man burns in 133 days!

          1. J. says:

            I await your personal examination. (Insert playing doctor comment here.)

      2. Hogarth says:

        I guess if we were not falling we would never look up? What can one do at the end of the day? A life must be lived whether in the light or in obscurity. I think the post is great, but I have my own mixed feelings about falling. Falling is inevitable but it’s far easier to bear when there is a parachute or safety net. I just feel at times that I’m trying to knit myself either one as I hurtle my way down. Maybe it’s better just to look up and hope for a soft landing? Lol

  6. Craig Brown says:

    Dear Brother Henrik, In case you miss him, your brother has given you a great excuse to go traveling yourself, before he or you hit the ground. If you want to know where to find him it usually says where he was last scene at the top of this blog. I heard he makes chicken now! Just be prepared to be sick for a week – bring some of Mom’s recipes as a gift!

Are you a sperm whale, falling through space?

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