While the cable is thin and suspended high above the ground, we need to realize that to the person on the cable that is their only source of stability. We have an advantage over the tightrope walker in that we have nowhere to fall. You may already feel nervous angry or depressed. So indeed you have “fallen”, but you are not harmed in a real sense. What you need to realize is that you are here. Your life is not over.
There is a documentary film entitled Man On Wire about Philippe Petit who in 1974 walked on a high wire between the towers of the World Trade Center. He was living in France as a 17 year old who immersed his life in high wire walking. He was at his dentist’s office going through a magazine when he saw a picture of the towers and he remembered thinking to himself that it was as if the buildings were being built for him. Years passed and his obsession with the towers grew. He spent countless hours practicing and simulating the walk. He had to spend another amount of countless hours figuring out how to elude security to achieve his dream. He was quoted as saying the following:
“If I die what a beautiful death… To die doing your passion.”
What can we gain from this?
Reflecting back on his fateful walk between the towers he said,
“I had to make a decision by shifting my weight from one foot anchored on the building to one foot on the wire. This is probably…I don’t know…the end of my life to step on that wire. On the other hand something that I could not resist and I didn’t make any effort to resist, called me up on the cable… and death was very close.”
Yes, he had the feeling of fear. He had to rely on others to help him rig the wire between the towers, and he wasn’t able to personally oversee the entire process. He could not guarantee that the team members did it correctly. He did not allow his fear to stop him. He had to allow himself to be at the mercy of the weather, which in New York could be very windy on any given day. By the end of his performance, he had made a total of eight crossings over a forty five minute span. He took time to kneel down and salute the crowd that had gathered below him. He even took time to lie down on his back.
For him the decision to step out on the wire was easy. He was driven and determined to follow his dream. Yes, he was afraid for his mortality, but his attention demanded more, his LIFE demanded more. He chose to pay more attention to his life force than his fear. He directed his attention to what he knew was more real. In the end he accomplished what he had set out to do.
Philippe went on to say, “I like everybody else, have a certain fear of heights, and I have to be very careful when I am in the clouds, but it is also what I love; it is my domain, so when you love something, you don't have fear.”
So when it comes to our own lives, we have to love life more than fear. Philippe has a passion for life and lives it to the fullest. He acknowledges his fear, but he doesn’t heed it. Fear will keep you small and prevent you from the passion of your life. In closing Philippe is quoted as saying, “Faith is what replaces doubt in my dictionary.”
Let us all take a lesson from a tight rope walker. We after all, have our feet on the ground.
© 2018 Michael Morris, MA, LLP