Historical spotlight: Philippe Petit


Just ask ol’ Phil Little here.

Could we all act as fearlessly in our regular lives as this guy did one day back in 1974?

The day he did a tightrope performance, high above the streets of Manhattan? The day he walked a wire strung between the two towers of the World Trade Center (RIP)?

One Hundred Floors Up?

I’ll have to go ahead and say no.

It’s not that I think that most-of-the-rest-of-us can’t rise to an occasional occasion; it’s that I think that Philippe Petit was an extra-ordinary fellow.

I mean, who does this?

He was obviously powerfully minded and physically capable, and was also, impressively, self taught as a “wire walker”.

The component that I find the most striking, is (of course) the obvious athletic ability….one would, necessarily, need monumental control of the body to have the same control of the wire.

Of course mental control played an enormous part of the process; this would apply, not only to Petit’s discipline in his devotion to his art, but also to the inspirational aspect….simply, the towers were there….you see, guys have to climb mountains, and sail oceans, and build empires, and slay dragons, and conquer countless….anywho….

Here is an artist who saw the mere presence of those towers to be the potential backdrop of another “performance”.

(Like when Evel Knievel tried to jump the Grand Canyon….on a motorcycle/rocket.)

“When I see three oranges I juggle; when I see two towers I walk.”

Ah, to be that lucid. I Love Lucid….

The arriving authorities, who patiently waited for Petit to complete his “routine” were, nonetheless impressed, perhaps more.

“…upon seeing us, he started to smile and laugh, and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire…”

Remember that this is 1,000 feet above the sidewalk.

“…he was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again…”

1,000 feet!

“…unbelievable really….everybody was spellbound in the watching of it…”

Apart from Petit’s small crew of assistants, the waiting gendarmes were, fantastically, the only audience to this “rooftop” performance….déjà vu?

Don’t worry folks, people like this are quite rare; so don’t feel too pressured! They are simply here to remind us that, well, anything is attainable. Goals can be achieved. Stories can be told. Songs can be sung.

But what was the absolute impulse, likely behind this incredible fable?

My educated guess is: A well-toned physique that inspired a mind that controlled the physique.

I’ll bet Joe Pilates would have loved this guy.

Quotes excerpted from The Center of the World of New York City: A Documentary Film  [vol. 8], (2003)