Operating at the limits
Strange things happen at the limit of all known phenomena. At first, these limits are treated as things to be avoided. Clever attempts are made to avoid manifesting these limits by circumventing them or retreating to other options that do not push these limits. But limits are not to be manifested or avoided but tested and transcended.
Several real-life scenarios in the sciences and sports reveal the possibilities that open up when limits are consciously approached with a view to transcending them. Without doubt, grave dangers always appear at these limits since our current state of knowledge may not be adequate to deal with the peculiarities to be encountered.
For many years, aircraft designers understood the concept of stalling, which is the minimum speed an aircraft can fly at, without falling off the air. An aircraft can easily stall when the pilot attempts to gain altitude by climbing too steeply. This usually leads to an unrecoverable situation that can lead to a crash. Owing to this fact, aircrafts have systems that alert the pilot of an impending stall.
Daring engineers and designers investigated these limits instead of avoiding them, and in the process opened up new possibilities in aircraft maneuverability. A particular kind of maneuver made it possible for the aircraft to literally stop mid-air and twirl to initiate a turn when a stall was deliberately initiated by the pilot. This was achieved by pivoting the engine in order to redirect the thrust of the engine (thrust vectoring) at the stall limit, effectively keeping the aircraft airborne when it would have simply fallen out of the sky. The consequence of this new development required a redesign of other aircrafts if they were ever to survive combat with aircrafts of this type.
Another emerging field that pushes at the limits of the current state-of-the-art is a new type of motoring known as Drifting. For many years, development of automobile braking systems focused on generating the best stopping distance on slippery surfaces in order to maintain control of the vehicle. Wheel-lock was considered dangerous under most driving condition, and millions of dollars were allocated by various design and engineering groups to develop systems that will ensure this limiting condition is not encountered by a driver. With this came drastic improvement in automobile safety and vehicle dynamic control. Ironically, Drifting, which was started by enthusiasts in Japan, operated at the very limits the vehicle computerized braking system was designed to circumvent. In this sport, the road is deliberately made wet by soaking it with water or oil, the vehicle accelerated to triple digit speeds, and the brakes applied to lock- up the wheels – to initiate the dreaded skid. Contrary to what is expected, professional drivers are now able to control a vehicle under this conditions of complete wheel-lock and continuous skid. Consequently, tire manufacturers have been compelled by the tremendous forces
encountered in Drifting to redesign their tires, and hopefully, other advancements will spin-off from this apparently crazy and ‘senseless sport.’
As humans who generally seek comfort and security, one of the things we try to avoid is making decisions without thinking. Everyone is trained to think things through. To gather all the information required, and weigh the options available before making any major decision. In fact, one is treated with condescension if it is clear that a decision was made without serious thinking. It appears everyone is afraid not to think, so many spend sleepless nights pondering the solution to their numerous life issues. It is generally accepted that there can be no real progress without continuous and sustained thinking.
As in the previous examples, investigators interested in transcending this limit attest to the amazing possibilities and superior results that are obtained when thoughts are suspended. Many wrongly believe that if thoughts can be stopped then there can be no way of gaining knowledge of an event, phenomena or obtaining the solution to a problem. Some others also insist that it is impossible and counter-productive to attempt to stop the thought process. However, this is where common sense fails to represent the truth.
In truth, the cessation of thought or internal dialogue is actually a gateway to a completely new world of intuition and revelation. It is at this point of no-thought that one can obtain personal proof that consciousness can exist outside the body, and that an alternate physical reality that is indistinguishable from the familiar exists – with all the properties of solidity, feedback, and actors. It is also strange that information related to a past, present, and future event, can be accurately gleaned from this alternate reality.
Like every other instance of operating at the limits, there are dangers associated with techniques of this sort, and there are no reliable guide books. Whereas in the engineering cases mentioned earlier the subject is different from the object of research; however, in the no-thought case, the subject is the object. The experiment is carried out on the experimenter by the experimenter, and several challenges caused by the unique constitution of an individual create fear as this limiting point is approached.
But once this power in silence has been encountered even for a fleeting moment, the tremendous vistas that opens up guarantees that one will never rest comfortably with the familiar.
Python and the Rainmaker.