I don't understand the use of the phrase "falling and missing the ground". How can one fall and miss the ground? What does it mean?
Apologies. I found the use of the phrase at http://www.scq.ubc.ca/how-to-fly/
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- A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.
- An assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, though based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises.
If you read it in reference to orbiting a planet, it's a paradox. If you fall, gravity will always bring you to the ground. Some say that orbiting is falling (because you are subject to the Earth's gravitational field), but not hitting the ground, because velocity keeps you from doing so.
Some pilots like to joke that flying is easy; what's hard is learning how to miss the ground. It's kind of an absurdity. It's reducing the very complex to a simple untruth.
So one of Douglas Adams' characters (Arthur Dent) manages to learn to fly by falling and missing the ground. (Life, the Universe and Everything, book 3 of 5 in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
If it was said sarcastically, it can mean a stupefying degree of ineptness:
"He can't do anything. He could fall and miss the ground."
Conversely, it could indicate a great success from what was surely considered by most to be a failing:
He fell and missed the ground. (It looked bad but he ended soaring to great heights.)