THE TEMPTATION IN THE DESERT: MAN ON WIRE AND FREE SOLO

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

“Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:

He will command his angels concerning you/and with their hands they will support you,/ lest you dash your foot against a stone. Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

–Matthew 4:5-7

I have an almost morbid fear of heights.

So I’m fascinated by Philippe Petit (b. 1949), the French high-wire artist, and more recently, by Alex Honnold, the only person on earth to have climbed the face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes.

The documentary “Man On Wire,” (2008) tells Petit’s story. In 1971, he evaded the authorities and walked between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Next he somehow managed to string a clandestine cable between NYC’s Twin Towers. On the morning of August 7, 1974, he set forth and in the course of 45 minutes, crossed between them eight times. At one point, he stopped in the middle with his balancing pole to sit down, take a bit of a breather, and survey his realm. He was 24 years old.

When asked by the police why he’d done it, he allegedly replied, “If I see three oranges, I have to juggle. And if see two towers, I have to walk.”

Honnold similarly feels that free soloing (that is, climbing without ropes, harness, or a safety net of any kind) is his vocation and his destiny. The activity is so dangerous that less than 1% of people who climb attempt it.

Of course he was scared: the face of “El Cap” is almost a vertical wall: “3200 feet of sheer granite.” Still, “I’ll never be content, until I at least put in the effort.”

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

4 Replies to “THE TEMPTATION IN THE DESERT: MAN ON WIRE AND FREE SOLO”

  1. mary a hilliard says: Reply

    Heather, I just made a donation via paypal for the reason that when I read your blogs, it is like receiving spiritual direction, whether you mean it that way or not. Carry on!

    1. Mary, thank you so much–just checking my comments now but and send you a thank you note moments ago–interesting you should say the blog is like receiving spiritual direction. I often think: How do I even describe what I do? Can’t seem to pin it down to a neat three-point Mission Statement or Marketing Plan or Elevator Pitch or anything remotely resembling…it’s enough for me to know that I reach a person here and there. And it’s important to hear it from time to time–as I am EASILY discouraged! Blessed Lent to you…mine has had plenty of meat in it thus far…

  2. My soul clings to you;
    your right hand holds me fast.

    Ps. 62

    A not uncommon mystery, this god-like transcending human limits, followed by almost equally breathtaking indifference to the sincere hearts of others. One almost – but not quite, not ever really – wish they’d be as careless in their art, and maybe wise up during the long, long fall.

    These exquisite pieces by Heather King, so perfectly shaped and filled with so many intricate facets:
    they always trick me into dropping everything else. They’re like the shorter piano pieces by Schubert, or Chopin. Or Schuman. Only miniature until you find yourself inside, not wishing to leave.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh wow, thank you as always for “getting it,” Lawrence…I really struggled over this one–my reach exceeded my grasp…but maybe there’s one bite of meat in there at least. The world has again pushed us off the precipice big-time…and we are learning in a whole new way that, as you say, His right hand–nothing else–holds us fast…I hope to be posting more in the coming days. Together in the Eucharist–

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS!