jeudi 24 septembre 2009

Why I skydive

Some excerpts from An Exploration of High-Risk Leisure Consumption through Skydiving (Celsi et al 1993)

Twenty skydivers rise and line up tightly in single file, as the DC-3, cruising at 100 knots, levels off two and one-half miles above the swamps of central Florida. In their bright jumpsuits, they form a sort of surreal.rumba line snaking toward the white light of the open DC-3 door. She is last out on this "twenty way" jump. Her job is to dive headfirst, in as fast and as controlled a manner as possible, to catch up to the skydivers exiting in front of her. Without exception the laws of physics will separate the skydivers as they exit, accelerating tbe first to leave away from those that follow. She lives for this. Nothing else exists for her now beyond this moment. The engines cut. Ready! Set! Go! She dives through the door. Like a body surfer, she rides the wave of the wind down and away from the plane. She descends head first, at vertical speeds approaching 200 miles per hour, toward the tiny cluster of skydivers below her. Tacitly judging distance and speed, she decelerates to perfectly match their slower fall rate. She does this by changing her body position from a dive to a flare, much like a bird landing or swooping in on prey. Gently, she settles into her assigned slot, taking a grip on the skydiver next to her. She smiles and calmly anticipates the next sequence in the dive. []

Motives, initially normative and externally derived, evolve to motives of efficacy, identity formation, and transcendent experience. A related pattern of risk acculturation coincides which results in the normalization of the initially frightening behavior.

Informants describe the skydiving act as one of total absorption that provides them not only with thrill and excitement, but also a sense of involvement that transcends mundane experience. When asked why they skydive, they invariably say "because it’s fun." When pressed, they collectively respond that nothing else exists in their world but that moment itself—no sense of time, just a kind of holistic oneness that makes them feel good and somehow changed.

This transcendent state, or "flow experience" (Csikszentmihalyi 1974), occurs when a situation demands total participation from the individual. As such, flow is a phenomenological state where self, self-awareness, behavior, and context form a unitized singular experience. Thus, flow is a state of total involvement where one moment "flows" holistically into the next without "conscious intervention" (Csikszentmihalyi 1974, p. 58). In this sense, flow is transcendent and typically recognized by the experiencing individual as such only when the state is diminished (also see Mitchell 1983). Csikszentmihalyi (1975) believes the flow experience is the manifestation of a person’s "true" self, unconstrained temporally by convention or by self-awareness. Flow provides a sense of self and self-efficacy that is highly satisfying and self-fulfilling.

[] with full acculturation the participant learns to manage the high-risk context and attains insider status, the risk experience becomes normalized, fear recedes, and s/he begins to view skydiving as a sport to be enjoyed like any other. It becomes the norm with the full assumption of a high-risk identity (van Gennep 1960). Risk and outcomes associated with it are accepted as due course and are overtly questioned only when injury or death interrupts the status quo. Finally, as the participant passes through this period of acculturation and evolves a stable high-risk identity ("I am a skydiver"), the need to share experiences and to rationalize to outsiders diminishes. "Yeah, you used to try to get all your friends to make a jump, let’s go, let’s go. . . . [now] I just don’t talk about skydiving much anymore [to outsiders] unless somebody asks me. I don’t know why that is either. . . . I guess it’s not a hobby anymore, it’s a way of life, so to speak (wm 26, more than 1,400 jumps).

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