In 3D, your chance to walk the wire
While researching adventurers for my book Only Pack What You Can Carry, I came across the story of Philippe Petit, the Frenchman who made history in 1974 via an illegal high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York City. I was trying to find an explanation for why I seem to always be looking for a way to push myself to the edge (even though I have a lot of fears that would prefer it if I just stayed safely behind the railings). In Petit, I found my answer. “Life is on the wire,” he famously said. “Everything else is just waiting around.”
In the new movie, “The Walk” – with the help of 3D glasses -- I was able to get up on the wire with Petit as he made his infamous, historic walk – 45 minutes and eight crossings on a wire that had been rigged in the dark. Kudos to Robert Zemekis for capturing Petit’s interior moments as he readied himself to step onto the cable (Zemekis of course a master of the interior moment as he proved in his movie “Cast Away”). Up there, perched on the edge of the World Trade Center, the wire and the world below obliterated by fog, pierced by the early morning rays of orange sunlight, you understand the peace, the perfection, the “otherness” of it. Instinctively you recognize that what you are witnessing is so rare, you will never, ever see it again.
And for 2 1/2 hours, you get to be a part of it.
Walking with Petit 1,350 feet above the Manhattan concrete, you sense in him a life force greater than yours, more fully fed or more completely acknowledged. Watching him, there is a part of you that shrinks and then blooms. It’s the immensity of the feat that contracts you; then the possibility of it that fills you with awe and wonder. First, you feel your own smallness, then the huge potential of what you could become. It is – quite literally – breathtaking.
I can tell you that I’ve felt fleeting moments of that contraction and expansion while rappelling into a canyon, or cresting a savage rapid, or peering up at the night sky with the Milky Way galaxy blazing above. I've heard the murmurs of that internal transformation, something that whispers, “Come on, there’s more for you.”
I think there’s more for all of us. We are all brilliant in some way. I encourage you to get up on the wire with Petit and see what I mean. And then ask yourself, as I’ve been doing every day since I did it: “What is my wire? Where do I feel wholly, fully and brilliantly alive?”