I have been waiting for this documentary for a month now… after I saw it in National Geographic (we get it every month). About Dean Potter, a man who is pushing human flight to the next levels, and building a better wingsuit using the scientific study of birds. And, tonight, I finally watched it: National Geographic Explorer: The Man Who Can Fly.
It’s a really amazing show, and if you are interested in flight, I definitely recommend to watch it.
The parts with the flight of birds are short, but one of the beautiful things is how he really connects with them emotionally and brings their feelings of flight into his flight. He obviously is a very spiritual person, and he sees flight as like being one with the air and with the world around you… very similar to how I see it. The birds seem to inspire him, and he even meditates with them. There is lovely slow-motion film of bird flight, too, and some interesting science about the technique of how you can study the movements of bird wings.
And, his skills are past amazing. Usually, I’m not the kind of person who gets emotional watching a show like this, but… my heart was really in my mouth at some times. This man climbs mountains with only his hands. No rope, no equipment, just a bag of chalk (to make his hands less sweaty I guess). 9000 feet mountains, he climbs just by… climbing. I’m still shocked by that, you have to see it to believe it. When I imagine mountain climbers, I imagine a big thick jacket, ropes, axes, sunglasses, pack with food… he doesn’t need any of that.
And then, sometimes he jumps off the mountain in a wing suit.
I felt a really strong sense of being in all that open air when I was watching… and, a little sadness. I wish I could be that kind of physical skilled person who can climb mountains like that… who can be close to nature like that, trusting the air and the cliffs. I have trained in hang gliding a little, but I have never gone from a high cliff like that… just from small hills. And, even if I do train more (I want to!), I don’t have the sense of closeness with my body to be like this. I envy the idea of being so independent, comfortable, and free. It feels like how I should be, and, it makes me realise that a little of my species dysphoria, it’s not just about being in a human body, but about being in a human body that is dyspraxic, low energy, etc. and can’t tumble and climb and move in the wild like an animal. If I could be like Dean Potter, I don’t think I would mind so much.
I don’t think that means my species dysphoria is less about species. I just think, I am a species who needs to be able to move in nature like that. Birds are movement. And so, having a body that could do that, would bring me closer to the me I am inside. It’s ironic… probably, part of the reason I am so clumsy in my body and not able to do these things, is related to not identifying with the human shape, which stops from doing these things that can help the dysphoria, of course.
But, at the same time, I am glad that someone in the world is doing it. It makes me happy just to be there with him, through the cameras.
And, the part that really lifted my heart… this is not the end. He says, we have just touched the very edge of what it is possible to do, in human flight. It’s going to get much, much better than this. An actual wing suit, I have always thought was disappointing. It doesn’t really fly, it just falls slowly. And, it’s true, most of the joy of this show for me, was seeing the freedom of a man who seems so comfortable with climbing and jumping and being in high places, that it already feels like he has wings. But… he believes that this is just the beginning.
And, if he believes it, I believe him.
I’m definitely going to keep watching what he will do, as he tries to push the limits of flying free. And, most exciting, because of the kind of person he is, I know he is committed to doing it with as little equipment as possible… bringing it as close as he can to the true dream of bird flight.