Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Help, I’ve Fallen and WAIT I’M STILL FALLING! (Phil’s Day Off) – Matthew Gosselin

Upon Mr. Jackson’s proposal of Jordan and I going bungee jumping for our Phil’s Day Off experiment, we laughed it off for a good few minutes until he started getting into the heavy details, such as setting a time and getting pricing. Bungee jumping was something we’d never done before, and it was something that I’ve withdrawn from because of my fear when my brother did it. The whole thing seemed surreal until the moment my feet were on the ledge and my harness was attached. Here are a few excerpts from my days prior to the jump! (I felt like writing this as an astronaut, unsure as to why.)

Thursday, 2 days before launch:

I’m scared. My hands have become sweaty at seemingly random intervals. The main focus has been to find an “instant solution” to the stress and a way to mentally prepare for the jump. All available sources have found ways of tying to one thing. Deep breathing. The main bodily process that this affects is heart rate. With slower and deeper breathing the slower the heart rate. Racing thoughts have been known to cause stress and for this to be the case, “slower” thought would lead to relaxation. I believe the speed of thoughts is tied to the speed of perception. The best example I can think of is a monster running towards you. The faster it runs, or the faster you perceive it to be, the scarier it becomes. If you perceive it more slowly, fear becomes more manageable which makes decision making more logical. On another note, a slow-fall bungee jump would probably be the most enjoyable yet terrifying experience possible.

Friday, 1 day before launch:

I am simply at another day of school, sitting alongside my friend Jordan. Half of me believes that tomorrow is a million years away, and the other half has an atomic clock counting down every one of the 84,120 seconds left. I am a jumble of emotion, consisting of fear, excitement, uncertainty in my ability to jump, zeal towards matching my brother’s courage, trust in Jordan, regret of accepting Mr. J’s idea in the first place, and a passive feeling of destiny awaiting me on the bridge. I’ve spoken with my brother about how he did it, and in much more vulgar terms than I care to write in a blog post, he told me, “Just jump. That’s all there is to it.” I’ve never seen him scared in my life. I want to fly without fear as well. Tomorrow will be a good day.

Our main question in this experiment was concerning free-will and determinism in a volatile mental state. The question was, “Is it possible to control a panic response through sheer willpower?” There were actually three separate stages at which panic responses in myself occurred. I also noted that each stage had a corresponding event that I hadn’t experienced prior to it. The first stage was once my harness had been clipped on and I stepped onto the ledge overhanging the abyss. The frigid weather, instability of my footing, and distraught mental state suddenly amplified. This was the moment when I knew that my pride wouldn’t let me back out. I was MENTALLY locked in to the jump. No matter what, I knew that it was happening, regardless of how tightly I gripped those handrails. The feeling of a predetermined event of such high caliber was new to me. The second stage was the split-second my feet left the platform. This was the PHYSICAL lock-in. Now, even if both my mind and body wanted to back out, there was no possible way. I physically couldn’t catch myself. The continuation of my destiny was then left to a higher being, or the person in charge of overseeing bungee cord production in who-knows-where. Finally, the last stage of fear was when my velocity had gotten to a point that I’d never felt before. I’d jumped off 7-meter diving boards and the like, but a 160 foot free-fall paled everything else in comparison. My senses were the only things left working. I looked at the beautiful scenery on the horizon, caught the scent of a snow-tipped forest, felt my fingers rush through frigid yet refreshing air, and heard the roar of wind fly past me. (My mouth was busy swearing and screaming.) I’d never felt so alive. As soon as the fear was over, I had the time of my life!

Post-jump reflection:

I don’t think it’s possible to control a panic response, if a panic response is induced by a completely new experience, regardless of what activities (such as deep breathing) are done prior. My reasoning is that the very definition of panic is the loss of control or ability to make a cognitive action of thought. The people working at Whistler Bungee would never have another true panic response at that location because it’s not a new experience. This is why people train for things to avoid panic responses by simulating similar experiences. The only things that can be controlled are the ability to put yourself in a situation that induces a panic response and the ability to find appreciation in the experience itself. All you can do is jump or back out. After the jump, you can either say you had fun or that you didn’t. Some people are inherently better at taking stepping off the ledge, and inherently better at finding appreciation in the experience. That’s it! (I also believe that the possibility of a panic response is directly proportional to how different it is to the summation of all your previous experiences.) If you’re looking for an amusing picture of Jordan or myself during this experience, they are on Jordan’s post. Thanks for reading!

Matthew Gosselin

Falling Virtuoso


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