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.”
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.