This weekend Felix Baumgartner did an amazing thing. More than one, really. He jumped out of a tiny capsule, over 24 miles above the ground, wearing nothing but a pressure suit. He broke the speed of sound on the way down, with nothing but that pressure suit to protect him. He fell for nine minutes, nine whole minutes – which is a damn long time to fall – and then landed on his feet.
And yet I saw people going on: “Why would he do this?” “What’s the point?” “This is stupid/silly.”
Those people make me very sad.
Imagine is the Wright Brothers had decided that flying for a few seconds was silly and useless and what was the point anyway, it was just a few seconds. Pushing humanity to its limits, exploring to the edges of the map, climbing higher and going deeper – this is what makes humanity wonderful! We explore and create and constantly test ourselves. It teaches us endless things about our world and our bodies and spirit.
Without the explorers and risk-takers we would be in the tress still. Actually we would still be in the ocean thinking it wasn’t worth it to bother going any further than we were then.
What will this jump do for us right now – probably nothing more (as if it is minor) than remind us how beautiful and wonderful humanity is. But in the longer term we just don’t know. You couldn’t get to an F-18 Hornet from the Wright Brothers. This data will at the least help with emergency bail-outs on space missions. At the further end who the hell knows.
Science is like that. You don’t just fund the clear path items. If we hadn’t funded, say, quantum research (which at the time was useless stuff that didn’t have real world applications) we wouldn’t have computers the way we do today at all. Microprocessors rely on the information from that early “useless” research.
Stop wondering why people are doing silly, risky things and realize that those are the people working to, in ways we often can’t even imagine yet, push humanity further. Cherish them, because we need them to survive and evolve and become even more than we are today.
We all need to have a little bit more of that in ourselves, I think. A bit more of that willingness to just… jump.