There is an art, it says, or rather, a
knack to flying.
The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the
ground and miss.
Pick a nice day, it suggests, and try it.
The first part is easy.
All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself
forward with all your weight, and willingness not to mind that it's going
That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground.
Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really
trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly
Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents
One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally.
It's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't.
You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when
you're halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or
about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss
It is notoriously difficult to prise your attention away from
these three things during the split second you have at your disposal.
Hence most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this
exhilarating and spectacular sport.
If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily
distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs
(tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination)
or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely
rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your
astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a
few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.
This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration.
Bob and float, float and bob.
Ignore all considerations of your own weight and simply let
yourself waft higher.
Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point
because they are unlikely to say anything helpful.
They are most likely to say something along the lines of,
'Good God, you can't possibly be flying!'
It is vitally important not to believe them or they will
suddenly be right.
Waft higher and higher.
Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the
treetops breathing regularly.
DO NOT WAVE AT ANYBODY.
When you have done this a few times you will find the moment
of distraction rapidly becomes easier and easier to achieve.
You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control
your flight, your speed, your manoeuvrability, and the trick usually lies
in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing
it to happen as if it was going to anyway.
You will also learn about how to land properly, which is
something you will almost certainly cock up, and cock up badly, on your
There are private flying clubs you can join which help you achieve the
all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with surprising
bodies or opinions to leap out from behind bushes and exhibit and/or
explain them at the critical moments. Few genuine hitch-hikers will be
able to afford to join these clubs, but some may be able to get temporary
employment at them.
— Douglas Adams, 'The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The
Galaxy,' which I heard as a kid on BBC radio 4 the first time it was
broadcast. Since then its been a four-book trilogy and a TV show.