There is a general assumption that our bodies are limited in what they can do. We can’t levitate, we can’t suspend in mid air, and we can’t fly. The reason why we can’t defy the laws of physics is because our physical forms are confined by them. But what if we are wrong? What if our bodies are actually limitless in what they can do, but it is our minds that are limiting them? What if all it takes is belief?
At one point in history, running a 4-minute mile was considered impossible. Then Roger Bannister did it in 1929, and suddenly the collective perception changed. Once one person broke the record, it didn’t even seem like a big deal anymore. Now the fastest mile is 3 minutes and 43 seconds – and I guarantee you someone will beat that too. Once the human brain can conceive of something as possible, the body can accomplish it.
We see this all time with world records, dance, sports, ice skating, gymnastics, big wave surfing etc… Actions that once seemed inconceivable instantaneously become manageable once we witness someone else doing it. Oh wow, that person can turn 700 times on their head, cool – now all kids are doing it. The first step towards achieving the unimaginable is as simple as having faith that you can.
The people who are pushing the edges of physicality are the ones who inherently know that if they can envision something, eventually it can be done. They can surf waves as tall as sky scrapers, walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon, or even try to fly. Elizabeth Streb is one of those people. She is a dancer and choreographer who creates movement pieces that challenge and obliterate every convention when it comes to the presumed restrictions of the human body – including flight.
Elizabeth’s work is so extreme that as a viewer you spend an ample amount of time chewing off your fingernails until your hands are a bloody mess. Everything is timed so impeccably that there is a millisecond margin of error where a dancer could get smacked in the head by a swinging cinderblock that is being propelled through the air. The dancers are flinging, tossing, and throwing their bodies across the stage with endless abandonment and exact precision. They are always on the precipice of collision, but in complete control of the danger. The adrenalin you feel by watching someone hurl their body from 30 feet up in the air and land like a pancake on their stomach/face only to jump up into a flip is about as exhilarating as if you were doing it yourself.
In the new documentary “Born To Fly,” Emmy nominated director Catherine Gund takes us into the mind of Elizabeth Streb, and deconstructs the process of her genius artistic expression. The film is a potent reminder of what our bodies are capable of, and how important it is for the human spirit to do something that challenges you… that frightens you… that seems impossible. When you live a sedentary life disconnected from your body, it is easy to forget the magic of living inside one. Having a capable body is one of the greatest gifts a human can receive, and we need to remember to appreciate the miracle of movement in our everyday lives. Whether that means taking that dance class you always wanted to, learning to skateboard at 40, or even trying a headstand at yoga class. It doesn’t matter what the effort, but it does matter that we make one.