Arthur had been under the care of a psychologist, Dr. Benjamin Gordon, for five years. Arthur was afraid of everything; people, bugs, dogs, cats, water, moving vehicles, and so on but his greatest fears were heights and flying.
He could not even watch a program or movie that had a scene inside an airplane.
He lived a tortured existence.
Under the care of Dr. Gordon Arthur was now enrolled at a local college. Dr. Gordon was able to treat his fear of books. Dr. Gordon told him that as long as he had books that they would help him overcome his fears. And it seemed to work. Everyplace Arthur went he carried his text books in his backpack. He visited parks, coffee shops, and was using public transportation rather than walking. He was now going to parks where people often brought their pets.
His progress was remarkable. Dr. Gordon was even preparing a paper on Arthur’s progress and was involved in a serious conversation with a publisher to write a book about his methods of overcoming fears and using Arthur’s story as the premise.
The day arrived for the culmination of Dr. Gordon’s work with Arthur. Arthur was about to parachute from a plane.
Dr. Gordon was an experienced parachutist and testified to Arthur that parachuting was essential to overcome many of his own phobias.
“If you do this one single act there is nothing for you to ever fear again. You will be a free man,” Dr. Gordon told Arthur sitting next to him on the small plane as it ascended.
Arthur was quite nervous. He patted his books in the backpack and smiled nervously at Dr. Gordon for assurance and courage.
The plane climbed for a few minutes. Arthur’s mouth was dry. Dr. Gordon continually assured him about the safety of parachuting and having confidence in his equipment and above all himself. “It’s safer than walking down a flight of stairs,” Dr. Gordon assured.
“We’re at four thousand feet,” the pilot said through the cockpit door. “Anytime you’re ready.”
“I can’t do this,” Arthur said.
“Sure you can,” Dr. Gordon said. “You’ve come too far to turn back now. You can do it!”
“I have to do it without thinking about it,” Arthur said. “Just go automatically through the motions as if I’ve done it all my life. It’s all second nature. No fear because I’ve done it before. Right Dr. Gordon? Just the way you told me.”
“That’s the spirit,” Dr. Gordon said. “You’ve got it!”
As Dr. Gordon moved forward to the cockpit to make certain of the drop zone Arthur quickly suited-up for the jump.
Dr. Gordon returned to find Arthur standing at the door of the plane with both hands firmly gripping the sides. At last he was about to face and overcome his fears.
Arthur looked at the miniature faraway world below and gulped.
“Do it Arthur!” Dr. Gordon said. “Free yourself.”
Arthur had a fearful smile. “Give me a nudge.”
“Just count to five and pull,“ Dr. Gordon said.
Arthur grabbed for his ripcord. It was the most freighting look ever seen on a man’s face. It was twisted in fear and doubt. Arthur tried to take a breath.
Dr. Gordon shoved Arthur.
Arthur tumbled from the plane. Dr. Gordon smiled and mumbled, “You have done it lad, you have done it.”
Dr. Gordon was pleased. He looked over at the Arthur’s empty seat and smiled. “He even did it without taking his books with him, such progress.” Dr. Gordon’s eyes widened. “That’s his parachute! He strapped on his backpack full of books!”
Dr. Gordon sat. He thought, “The books were always a crutch. I wonder if they helped this time? I see now why he had a fear of books; they are of little use when falling from a plane.”