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Philippe Petit, Still Soaring

| May 30, 2012

Philippe Petit, Aug. 7, 1974.

Philippe Petit is one of the great artists of the 20th century, and now the 21st. He is the walker in the clouds, the poet of wires, the man who, on an August morning in 1974, gave New York City “a gift of astonishing, indelible beauty” (in the words of Paul Auster, the novelist), a gift the city would never forget, even less so now that the towers are gone: walks back and forth, on a wire, between the then unfinished North and South towers of the World Trade Center. He was 24.

He was and remains a lot more than a tightrope walker, his artistry breaking bounds of the common in literal and unexpected ways: one doesn’t imagine being moved to tears by a man walking on a rope hundreds of feet in the air, but Petit does that, and to hear him speak you begin to understand why: he is a cloud-walker even when on ground the rest of us are stuck to.

“Improvisation,” he says in this absorbing 19-minute Ted talk from march, “is empowering because it welcomes the unknown. And since what’s impossible is always unknown, it allows me to believe I can cheat the impossible. Now, I have done the impossible not once but many times. ” The talk culminates with the story he tells of walking a rope between two points in Jerusalem, across a valley, with 80,000 people below, Arabs and Jews at one point in union.

“And when you see mountains, remember, mountains can be moved.” Watch.

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3 Responses for “Philippe Petit, Still Soaring”

  1. Laura says:

    The full-length documentary, “Man on Wire” is a slow moving, visual proof
    for those who missed his World Trade Center walk in 1974.
    It has extensive footage of the in’s and out’s of the WTC.
    A somber reminder that they once stood tall.

    His story isn’t idiotic reality show, or Knievel-esque thrill seeking adventure.
    It is contemplative and inspiring.
    You can watch it instantly on Netflix.

    {{* *}}

  2. Vanessa Cheesewright says:


  3. Liana G says:

    More ideas worth sharing…

    RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

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