Of Skydivers and Visions

By Fred A. Pruyn

As a small boy I loved to take my bike, leave the city, and watch the parachutes coming down in the nearby pastures. Crossing a farmyard, I passed between the complacent cows, always on the lookout for their large droppings lying in ambush behind tall grasses, meanwhile keeping a restless eye on the blue sky. After traveling half a mile, I arrived at a small square of sand with a windsock and some people. The sun shone bright in the clear sky and temperatures were very comfortable on those dreamlike summer days — only the wind refused to fit in with this pleasant scenario, and many skydivers had a hard time in the occasionally heavy gusts.

Then it happened. I saw the plane on high, and by the fading noise of the plane's engine could tell that the pilot had pulled back on the throttle. A tiny black speck appeared, which fell too quickly back to earth. The parachute opened in time, and the man could be seen drifting swiftly away on the wind, far away from the landing area.

For a moment he disappeared into a ditch and seconds later could be seen, soaking wet, wrestling with his parachute in the heavy winds. I was relieved that he had landed without being hurt, for obviously he was not an experienced skydiver. When he called for help, I ran to his aid. Out of breath, I stopped in front of the same small ditch in which he had made his unfortunate landing. The duckweed and taller plants had closed over the surface of the water again, leaving not the tiniest trace of what happened some minutes before. The poor dripping fellow, dragged away by the wind, fell into some cow pats in the bargain and cried for help again. To walk to the nearest small farm bridge would take me ten minutes longer. I made a quick calculation of my athletic skill and the breadth of the ditch, feeling happy that at least one grownup had confidence in my ability to help him. But in retrospect I must have known I would fail, as I did not particularly excel in mathematics or athletics. I took a long run, jumped, and went down to the bottom, to surface all covered with duckweed and a terrible stench.

After helping the man with his parachute, which enjoyed a wild romance with the winds, I cycled home as a little green Martian, leaving a trail of water and duckweed behind me. At home I couldn't escape my parents' scorn; my father exclaimed, "If I saw other people jumping a ditch, I'm sure I wouldn't do it!"

Then I became aware that I did not jump to get some reward, neither was there any disturbing thought about failure, but I had only felt the helplessness of the parachutist in my heart. Perhaps for the first time in my early life I discovered another world. And so I did not feel ashamed, but even a little glad. Sometimes it just seems inevitable to go down to the muddy bottom to surface with a new vision.

  (From Sunrise magazine, August/September 2002; copyright © 2002 Theosophical University Press)


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Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. — Henry David Thoreau