On the Folly of Abandoning the Basics in Favor of Shortcuts

“Some participants had a natural gift for paragliding, borne of purely physical qualities which were innate and which could never be attained, although each individual’s basic abilities could be cultivated through diligent practice. Most of the naturally talented ones worked almost exclusively on improving their rock climbing skills and on “muscling out” longer flights. They had found outcrops well below our summit point to which they could climb using the latest equipment and from which they could launch themselves. Because of their superior gliding talents, some were able to sustain rather long flights, but never quite as long as those of the best of our group, who took off from the true summit. They claimed the experience was the same, that no one needed to go all the way to the top, but we had all tried it many times in our less enlightened days (and even experimented with it still), and we knew better. Furthermore, the objective criterion of “hang time” belied their assertions. As a group, they all fell short of our group in terms of duration in the air. This was something they could never quite explain to anyone’s satisfaction, yet they continued a vain attempt to muscle their way upward to catch those updrafts that could only be caught from our starting point.”

Essay by John Kellog originally posted at letsrun.com, Jan. 7, 2004 (http://www.letsrun.com/2004/jkguide.php)

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