In just under twelve hours a man will abandon the relative safety of his tiny protective cocoon, open up a small door, and stand on the precipice of life itself.
His name is Felix Baumgartner.
He will be trying to break the record for the highest ever skydive, in the process becoming the first human to break the sound barrier unaided by a vehicle.
Picture this – he will be standing outside on a tiny metal platform gripping the handrails of the gondola surrounded by the blackness of space. Looking outwards he’ll see the curvature of the Earth, looking down he’ll see the view one can only get from satellite photography, the view we load onto our laptops when we’re sitting safely in our lounge rooms.
The simple act of opening up his fingers will see gravity take over, and he’ll fall towards the planet. The very split second his feet leave the step he will have transformed himself from a passenger in a vehicle to a freely falling weight, accelerating to beyond the speed of sound.
A determined conscious decision will result in a minuscule muscle movement that will see him place his life completely and absolutely in the hands of technology, trusting equipment and systems designed and built by other people.
There are only two possible outcomes from this adventure.
Nowadays we tend to be quite loose with the term “hero”, attributing this term, for example, to people who are paid huge sums to kick a ball around a paddock, and whilst there may be some element of bravery displayed in many sporting endeavours I hardly think they qualify as heroic acts.
To me the true heroes of our time are not only those who risk all to save others from perilous situations but also those who extend the boundaries of human endeavour at great personal risk.
Consequently there’s a hero inside all of us. We just need to step over the line at the boundary of our comfort zone, go out into the world, and find it.
As David Bowie once said “we can be heroes, just for one day”