Traversing towers of Babel

Josh Larsen

Josh Larsen
October 1, 2015

The Walk depicts Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire performance between the Twin Towers as an act of gratitude and perhaps even devotion.

October 1, 2015

This is a compelling essay on a great mystery. I'm halfway through "Man on Wire," so the questions you raise focus things for me very well as I've been watching. I've thought that the "why" was simply anarchist performance art, given his history as a street performer and the "in your face" middle finger approach to authority given the 70's hippie vibe in much of the documentary. But I wonder, given your observation of the transcendent moment of being on the wire on his back (an amazing feat by the way, and literally turning his back away from the audience below) if this moment was--as you hint--a performance for One, man and Maker, artist and the original creator. Not something he would have necessarily embraced or observed, but maybe felt in the moment.

Mary Jane Smith
October 2, 2015

I don't think it was miraculous at all that he was able to tight rope walk between the Twin Towers. It was a circus act! Something he was trained to do and he did it well.
A miracle is if he walked on water!

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
October 3, 2015

In Reply to Mary Jane Smith (comment #27519)

True, Mary Jane, I don't think even Petit could walk on water (something that's evident in a scene when he's practicing over a pond and falls in). Yet consider some synonyms for miraculous: phenomenal, transcendental, unearthly. I don't mean to suggest Petit performed a miracle, but that - especially as captured in The Walk - his feat was something of a transcendent experience, for both him and his audience (including us today).

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