Sep 14, 2010

Open Letter to David Blaine

Dear David Blaine,

I nominate you to be the world's first atmonaut, to open a new frontier of human imagination and striving: a new city in the sky.

You are the best qualified for this post. You hold endurance records in small enclosure, low temperature, low oxygen, low nutrient and high cost environments. You dwelled in a coffin for a week, lived frozen in a block of ice for three days and nights, slept in a hypoxic tent for weeks, lived in a suspended glass box without food for 44 days, held your breath for more than 17 minutes--and you produced all these deeds for prime time television viewing. Wow.

But all that was prelude to your inaugural atmonautic phlight, your internship in life aboard a passive sun-powered flying sphere, bobbing between layers of atmosphere, floating above the ground, passing over borders in that great Appalachian trail in the sky. You will be an inspiration to young and old from every nation. The message will be clear: magic is real. We can live, work and sleep in the air, and leave the ground to what it does best--growing food and nurturing life.

David Blaine floats in a glittering bubble, like Glinda the good witch from the South of Oz in her bubble ship, but behind the magic is a deeper message: People do not require concrete boxes and asphalt roads to raise their families and achieve their dreams. We can take to the sky on a whisper of solar heated air.

Conquering new frontiers is a basic human passion. You were born in 1973, four years after Neil Armstrong's moon walk, so you did not experience the race to space as I did. But let me tell you, the entire world was breathless since 1957 when Laika, the first dog in orbit, sent her beating heart telemetry rate back to our eager listening ears.

This new frontier will also capture the world's hearts and minds. Unlike your 44 days in a glass box in London, you will float over borders and pass people in their homes, offices and fields. Your support and publicity teams will have to clear international permissions, like Bertrand Piccard's team. But he could control his height, choosing jet streams with impunity. You will be at the mercy of the ocean of air. Much more dramatic.

And you will be cold and hypo-oxygenated. But you have experience with those conditions. After all, you were frozen in a block of ice for three days and three nights in New York City. You experimented with ultra-cold again in your race to set the world's record for breath holding, inspired by the 1987 story of the boy that fell through ice and was trapped under a river...

I promise, the Science Times and the New England Journal of Medicine will cover the story. And when more and more passive flying atmonauts join you, flying over green fields of earth growing food and pure water for the sustenance of all life, when infants born in the bobbing cities in the sky delight over the fresh fruit and fish from a daily harvest free of urban runoff, they will ask: who pioneered this last great frontier? Who was the first to break tether with the earth?

The answer, for all time, will be the greatest magician that ever lived, David Blaine.

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