Delight Springs

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

High on the wire, high on life

There was some discussion around our alfresco dining table last night, some mild dispute, as to the nature and praiseworthiness of Mr. Walenda's canyon stunt. Wife and Younger Daughter expressed admiration for the skill and fortitude involved in his high-wire act. Doing it without a net made it even more impressive, they said. Made it more lucrative for him, I said. TV wasn't going to pay big bucks to watch somebody dive into a net, were they?

The whole spectacle was garish and tasteless, like most sponsored television entertainment. The fact that some people will risk gambling away the gift of life in exchange for fame or notoriety or money is not surprising. But it isn't especially elevating, either.

It's not just the money, though. In Let the Great World Spin, one of Colum McCann's New Yorkers reacts to Phillipe Petit's 1974 World Trade Center tower walk with a feeling similar to mine, similarly inarticulate. There's just something cheap and low and hard to verbalize, about such an enterprise, even if you've not pre-arranged a vast audience and a big paycheck.

On the other hand, as Henry says:
We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man—then you are ready for a walk.
I do try to capture something of  that spirit, with every saunter. The great adventure, the great balancing act, involves carefully toeing the line of the present moment while also fearlessly stepping out into the undiscovered country of tomorrow, and tomorrow. "Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity."

The abyss immediately at our feet is nothing, compared to the vast and sprawling expanse that nobody's paying us to cross. We all have to find intrinsic motivation for that journey, and the courage to live. We can't just be in it for the money. Or the adrenaline. Or Daddy's approval. Or anything merely personal and ego-driven. What life may become, beyond the distractions and amusements of the moment, is our great and vital question. None of us has a net.

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