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This week’s illustration

Skydiving and Fear

Will Smith describes his personal experience with skydiving in a YouTube video, “What Skydiving Taught Me About Fear.” The video has received 3.8 million views. Whether it is skydiving or fear (or both!), his experience has clearly struck a chord with many people. In the video, Will describes the anxiety and fear he felt the night before skydiving. He retells laying awake in his bed wondering why he would agree to do something so foolish. He shares how he sat through the safety demonstrations, signed waivers and learned what to do if the parachute did not open. Then he paints the picture: getting on the airplane, sitting tandem with the skydiving instructor, watching as the door of the airplane flies open, realizing that he’s never before been in an airplane with the door open. Each step of the way, the viewer can feel their own pulse quicken as Will tells the story. He steps up to the ledge. The skydiving instructor says, “On the count of three! One! Two!” and before they can reach three he pushes them both out of the plane and they tumble into a free fall.

In this moment Will describes pure elation. Joy. An overwhelming sense of euphoria. He was no longer afraid. He was flying. Every ounce of fear up to that moment was unnecessary. The anxiety the night before in his safe, warm bed was unwarranted. The jolt of fear at the safety briefing? Not relevant. Climbing aboard the plane with an internal sense of panic? Not useful. In each of these instances, he was perfectly safe and yet he was deathly afraid. And then, in the moment when he should have been the most afraid, he felt free. What good did all the fear do him?

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