Confessions of an Outlaw: The Art of Balance
High-wire artist Philippe Petit wasn't just born with superior balance; it's something he's developed all his life and something he applies to all his life.
Philippe Petit has performed on the high wire more than eighty times around the world. He is famous for his 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Petit is also a magician, street juggler, visual artist, builder, lecturer, and writer. He is the author and illustrator of several books, including To Reach the Clouds, the basis of the 2009 Academy Award–winning documentary Man on Wire.
Petit's latest book is titled Creativity: The Perfect Crimes. His World Trade Center act is the subject of the 2015 biographical film The Walk directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Philippe Petit: So of course people see me as a man of balance and even people inquire where you born with this fabulous balance. And I grin because actually to me it’s work. I was not born with that talent I do not think so. I think it was a lifetime of working on my balance that made me acquire the very good one. Also the surviving feeling that, you know, my balance saves my life. But I extend that to everything in life.
As much as we need air and water and food we have this force of gravity that nails us to the surface of the Earth and if we stand on our two back legs as a mammal it’s because we fought and we conquered the balance. Now it’s very natural, people walk but actually walking is an art. I can tell because I perfected the art of walking on a tightrope for, you know, almost 50 years now. And I find out that balance is not only for wirewalkers, for jugglers. Balance hits you everywhere and balance in your head is as important as balance in your limbs. If you are conscious of that, you know, it sounds silly but if in the morning when you have breakfast you don’t slouch but you kind of hold yourself not only erect, you know, ready to take decision for the day to come but also perfectly balanced with the feet parallel, the hands, you know, parallel as well and eat your breakfast you will feel there is a little – this little exercise so to speak is going to input and mark your entire day. You’re going to feel better. I mean look at people sitting. Very rarely you will see their feet parallel. Now I study martial arts a little bit at some point and I read a very interesting memoir from Bruce Lee and Bruce Lee who actually encompassed all the martial arts to create his own was saying the human attitude to be able to spring into any kind of action attacking, defending, dancing, walking is standing up erect, you know, at ease with the feet parallel. Now you look at people around sitting or standing up. I swear it’s so rare to see somebody with parallel feet. Now what is that? Well that is an image of balance of course you see. So experiment that. Force yourself to be balanced and then you’ll see. You’ll feel better.
High-wire artist Philippe Petit wasn't just born with superior balance; it's something he's developed all his life and something he applies to all his life. It's balance -- in more meanings of the word -- which keeps Petit alive.
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