The Art of Flying


Contributing Editor
Walt Pickut

You cannot fly… and neither can I. That’s only one of the myriad things we cannot do. Trouble is, that’s also the excuse we use for not doing a lot of things we can do, but we don’t believe we can.

Sometimes it simply takes a different perspective to do something impossible. Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, wrote the ultimate instruction manual on flying. It was short and sweet.

“There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

Well, okay. Maybe it’s not that easy. But Adams had one more piece of advice for anyone trying to do something they never did before. “Don’t panic.”

Learning to fly is just another way to say, “Do something you never did before.” Somehow, “I never did that before,” becomes the reason for not trying it. Not trying becomes safer than trying… and then you prove you can’t because you won’t.

So here’s a little encouragement: you have done things before than you could not do. You did not know how to walk when you were born. You never did it before and you learned how. The same was true for swimming and bike riding and even that nearly impossible first date.

The way to do something you think can’t do, in other words, is to do it.

Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury authored at least 27 novels and more than 600 short stories. He was one of the most famous and productive writers of the 20th century. He once said everything he wrote created its own new challenges. He relearned how to fly every time. 

Bradbury’s answer to each challenge was, “Jump off the cliff and learn how to make wings on the way down.”

In other words, if something is worth doing, do it before you decide you can’t. Who knew that better than Peter Pan? “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

So, this week the Jamestown Gazette invites you to meet a pair of Jamestown’s frequent fliers doing what many said they could not. A few years ago Angelo and Ylsa Giuffreda bought Jamestown’s oldest standing church after its congregation dwindled to the few faithful who could no longer support its original mission.

They jumped off the cliff and they did not fail, did not quit, and built their beautiful wings on the way down. The church is now The Spire, a successful, thriving constellation of arts and performing artists. The glue and rivets holding their wings on are their determination and passion to fly.

Jamestown Gazette readers are invited in our page 1 story this week to engage with Angelo and Ylsa in continuing to restore the space where The Spire’s artists and performers bring new life to the venerable and historic old building and the community it lives in.

Support is not merely for a good cause, but for the inspiration of a flight once thought impossible.

The idea is not new. Nearly 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci said, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

Be inspired to do something impossible this week. You’ve done it before. Make flying your lifestyle.

Enjoy the read.

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.