I have always wondered at the dichotomy of opposites, or more definitively, things that oppose or seem to contradict. Why do we park our cars in a driveway and drive on a parkway? Why is sour milk relegated to that which is bad and sour cream to that which (as some claim) good? Why do feet smell and noses run? Why do we ship by truck and send cargo by ship? How can a SLIM CHANCE and a FAT CHANCE be the same, while a WISE MAN and a WISE GUY are opposites?

If there are extraterrestrial beings out in the cosmos being inundated with earth’s firehose of radio and television transmissions, I believe we have no reason to fear an off-planet invasion. Any species capable of intergalactic space travel surveying us from afar, would either be dumbstruck with confusion or be totally out of breath (assuming they breathe a gaseous mixture) from laughing too hard (or what passes for laughter for them).

It has been said that there is good and bad cholesterol and good and bad stress. Are opposites required to be either bad or good? Not necessarily. You can have opposing viewpoints on a matter that do not make one individual right over another; just different. Some would argue that this point of view does not necessarily hold true for some of life’s more acute challenges. Some of those can truly be oppressive on many fronts; whether physical, emotional, or otherwise. Or how about meeting the challenge of aspiring to something that you have never accomplished before? What would it take to stay the course, even if the course contains blind spots that merge into blind corners, which in turn conceal drop-offs that may not give you any advanced warning?

Inspiration and incentive to that end, was provided for me through Felix Baumgartner, who on Oct 14th 2012, stepped out of his capsule halfway to outer space and plummeted back to Earth from more than 120,000 feet (24 miles) above Roswell, New Mexico. The 43-year-old pilot became the first person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft reaching speeds of mach 1.24 (834mph). To break the record, he stepped off a tiny ledge outside his capsule, a pod-like unit that carried him nearly 25 miles up into the stratosphere by an super-thin, 55-story-tall balloon that Red Bull and he designed for this skydive from space.

Now I can only wonder at the seemingly insurmountable challenges that Felix faced as he prepared for this endeavour. But one aspect of this undertaking that fascinates me is the actual moment when he jumped from the capsule. For several hours, he was strapped inside a tiny, certainly claustrophobic area, as it transported him up to the edge of space. Then when the moment arrives for him to exit the capsule, the door slides open and he is faced with..space. A lot of it; and he did not hesitate.

Talk about opposites. Try and imagine going from a secure, (albeit small) enclosure to potential agoraphobia. But I have to qualify something. Agoraphobia suggests a fear of “open spaces”. That is somewhat misleading. It is a condition which develops when a person begins to avoid spaces or situations associated with anxiety. Agoraphobia arises from an internal anxiety condition that has become so intense that the suffering individual fears going anywhere or doing anything where these feelings of panic have repeatedly occurred before. Once the panic attacks have started, these episodes become the ongoing stress, even when other more obvious pressures have diminished.

Obviously Felix does not suffer from that malady. He knew the risks, yet still when the time came, he stepped off into thin air. It could be argued that the stresses he had to endure (physical, emotional/mental) were beyond the ken of most sane individuals. Unfortunately most individuals miss out on life because of innate fear. The point being that if you wish to live your life to the fullest, you cannot do so without some element of risk. Therein lies another opposite. Yes, this thinking is diametrically opposed to our human nature’s bent on self preservation. I also learned another fascinating lesson from watching Felix’s record breaking feat. He used to his advantage, what opposed him all the way up to the time of his jump. The very thing that sought to prevent his success, invariably allowed him to succeed. He used gravity. Now that is going with the flow!

So, we can settle for a life that is safe and boring; or choose one that allows us to experience the inherent stresses in the opposites that allow new vistas to be gained. We so often fail to realize that in order to get the best view, we have to climb to a higher elevation; whether by stairs; a mountain; or in a balloon to the edge of space. It requires effort, but the rewards are more than worth it.

I’m takin’ a step, takin’ a step of faith
Walkin’ out on the promises God made
Takin’ a giant leap in the air
Steppin’ out on nothin’ and findin’ somethin’ there
Tellin’ the doubt to wait
I’m takin’ a step of faith
Source: Step of Faith by Carman