I have to build up 100 hours of air time before I can do a tandem paraglider rating, allowing me to take passengers. I’m currently only at 17 hours, but it’s goal I want to focus on while I am here in India so one day I can take my sister for a flight, and share the experience with others.
I’m excited about all the things I’ll learn over the next 83 hours flying. I already know some of the things I have to learn and how I will learn them. For instance my spot landings need improvement. That will come partly with practice and familiarity with the equipment and locations, and partly with new techniques that I am currently only vaguely aware of.
But I’m even more excited that I will learn things that I don’t yet even know I need to know about.
I’m sure there will be some scary moments and mistakes I make along the way, but hopefully the consequences will be no more severe than a few sobering flashbacks and lessons learnt, making me safer for the passengers who will one day trust me to fly them.
There are 2 ways of making mistakes. If you are unsure, you take your best guess in the knowledge that it might be wrong. But the more dangerous type of mistake is when you are sure, and it turns out you are wrong in your conviction.
Far from making me more confident, this journey from the UK and the encounters with people of different beliefs and practices has made me even more unsure about how the world works. There is so much variety and countless right and wrong truths. If there is one thing that I have become certain of, it’s that people who are convinced they are right are the most dangerous. Be it political, religious, environmental, or philosophical; any fervent belief belies a very narrow view the world and an intolerance of diversity. We are too varied a planet to be intolerant of diversity, and too varied for one set of ideals to work universally.
Perhaps leaders would do a better job if they were more uncertain and indecisive, ready to procrastinate more. As I’ve always said, if you put something off for long enough, you won’t have to do it at all. Probably not the most effective approach, but it’s useful to temper every decision with the humility that it might be wrong no matter how sure you are.
Soaring a ridge in lighter wind is a balancing act. The closer you get to the hill, the more lift you are likely to find, but there is always a risk you can hit a pocket of sinking air when you are too close, and end up dropping onto the slope below; a lovely euphemism for crashing. Every inch of the way you are feeling the lift while adjusting your position and direction, assessing the terrain ahead and predicting what the air is doing over it. Even though you might know the contours of the hill well, the nature of wind is too variable to assume any certainty in the air’s behaviour.
At university a fellow student wrote his dissertation on how to make decisions based on uncertain information. It was such a theoretical paper that I think the practical engineering professors failed him, but in essence it said that you had to make decisions that firstly kept your options open, and that secondly allowed you to move to a position of less uncertainty so you could make a better decision.
So bring on the next 83 hours full or confusions and re-evaluated certainties. Whatever lessons I learn, I’ll always be moving to a position of less uncertainty, but I’ve already accepted that whether I’m on the ground thinking about the heavens, or in the sky thinking about the world, I should cherish and nurture my doubt as much as I cherish and nurture my truths.