Of Cliffs and Falling
If you’re falling off a cliff you may as well try and fly. You’ve got nothing to lose.
A few of you might know this from Babylon 5, a sci-fi series that aired in the late 90’s. If you don’t, that’s OK. Not everyone can have geek cred as strong as mine. Also, you don’t really need the show’s context to understand the meaning behind the quote.
Falling off a cliff is very much a loss of control. The forces acting on you (gravity and air resistance mostly) are out of your control. Your destination is out of your control. Basically everything is out of your control. Sure the choice to exit the safety of the top of the mountain might have been your choice (i.e. you jumped) or maybe it wasn’t (i.e. you were pushed). Either way it doesn’t matter. Spending your time thinking about how you got here isn’t going to help. Your only choice is to look ahead. I’m sure many people have told you that humans cannot fly. But at this point seriously, what do you have to lose. If you do nothing, SPLAT! If you try to fly and fail, still SPLAT! But on the off chance you actually manage to fly, well that would be something.
Our world can feel very much like we’ve exited the safety of the top of the mountain and are falling off the cliff. At a global level, climate crisis seems almost inevitable. At the national level the U.S. election results can give many reasons to despair. At the local level, maybe there’s new technology rolling out at your institution. Maybe you’re rolling out something at your institution because some else wants it. My institution is in the midst of a presidential transition, perhaps the most jarring thing that can happen at an institution and one over which you at least feel you have little control. There’s lots of ways to end up falling of the cliff.
There may be a sense that doing the expected is the only course of action afforded us. I’d argue instead that now is the moment to try the things we think can’t work, but might. It’s the moment to do a thing when, perhaps, it makes no sense to try.
Because after all, if we’re falling off a cliff, we may as well try and fly. We have nothing to lose.