All children are familiar with tales of children or animals who, holding the string attached to a balloon, float into the sky. It is a common childhood fantasy. Balloons are one of the first 'flying objects' known intimately to children. I never liked balloons myself, after being introduced to them at a birthday party at the age of 3. One of the games required one to stand on a chair to pop balloons with a pin. The sound the balloon made when its skin was pierced terrified me. Even now, I do not like to be near balloons. It is not the loudness but the element of surprise that I find distressing. Balloons are like unexploded bombs. Be that as it may, I nonetheless do comprehend their 'magical' nature where children are concerned.
The idea of an object that is bound to this earth only by a slender string is fascinating. Let go of the string and the balloon escapes to heaven effortlessly.
The shape and colour of simple balloons is seductive as well. A cluster of balloons of different colours induces thoughts and memories of celebrations and excitement.
Like magical grapes floating out of reach, balloons are a constant reminder of our own earthbound limitations.
Evidently, there always have been individuals who refused to believe that the idea of balloons as a form of transportation was nothing more than fantasy. (In this context, hot air balloons are an entirely different matter.) In 1982, a man named Larry Walters tied balloons to his lawn chair in Los Angeles and rose three miles above the earth. The unfortunate visionary was forced to pay $1500 for 'violating air traffic rules'.
Recently, inspired by Walters, the 47 year old owner of a petrol station in Oregon
travelled almost 200 miles in a lawn chair held aloft by 105 balloons.
Kent Couch, floating high above the earth, heard cattle lowing and listened to the chatter of children far below him. He floated past a black butterfly. He flew through clouds. Being able to touch clouds was one of his childhood dreams.
He told the local newspaper: 'When you're laying in the grass on a summer day, and you see the clouds, you wish you could jump on them. This is as close as you can come to jumping on them. It's just like that.'
Bravo, Mr. Kent Couch! You transformed every child's fantasy into reality. You had the courage and determination to resist the terrible weight of 'adult responsibility' and all the voices of society that would consider a flight in a lawn chair either to be a waste of money or a reckless, pointless adventure.
I believe that, within each one of us is a fantasy that we would like to experience before we die. How many of us actually throw caution and commonsense to the winds to transform that fantasy into reality?
Surely every individual has the right to pursue his/her dream! One must be responsible to family and self to some extent, but that having been achieved, one should be able to pursue a childhood dream...
The opinions and judgement of other people should not matter. It is said that 'There's no fool like an old fool', but in my opinion, the greatest foolishness would be to deprive oneself of the attainment of a cherished childhood dream. Is that selfish? Of course it is, but I am not suggesting that an individual should predicate every action and an entire life course on selfish gratification. I do believe, however, that friends and family should support an individual if he/she wishes to achieve a childhood dream. In the case of Kent Couch, his wife was supportive, even though she did not share his dream.
She very sensibly declared that: 'I knew he'd be thinking about it more and more. It would always be on his mind. This way, at least he's fulfilled his dream.'
In fact, Kent declared that he would not take another trip like this if his wife did not agree. To any one who might consider a trip in a chair held aloft by balloons to be evidence of insanity, the attitudes of both husband and wife demonstrate a great deal of sanity and sensibility.
Human beings always have possessed a longing to be able to fly. Our dreams and visions are filled with it. There are very few individuals who have not had dreaming of flying. Art in every form includes depictions of human beings with wings. The tale of Icarus demonstrates the great antiquity of this human aspiration. Is it fantasy or reality?
Kent Couch certainly has translated his fantasy to reality. Who is to say that the fantasies of others never will achieve that transformation? Nothing conceived by the human mind can be considered truly impossible.
I salute all those who have the courage to defy restrictions and limitations. I salute those who continue to strive to make that which is considered impossible not only possible but realised in reality.