Monday, May 10, 2010
Man on Wire: A friendship that broke on that day
I just watched the movie Man on Wire with my mom. It is the story of Phillipe Petit, a Frenchman who in 1976 walked and performed on a tightrope strung illegally between the World Trade Center towers.
The story is extraordinary, of course, and there are so many lessons to be learned about passion and faith and teamwork and love...
But two things struck me profoundly that I can't seem to shake. This is the first: At the end of the story, Phillipe walks out of the DA's office, having struck a deal, and into a huge crowd. He has succeeded, after ten years of planning and months of logistical preparation, with the necessary help of his closest friends, and now, he is a celebrity.
When he walks out into the crowd, he looses himself. This man, this extraordinary love of all of these people who held him up, who spent summers and countless hours giving their time, energy, faith and belief to, this man who had dedication and discipline that is unmatched, perhaps unmatchable... when he met his success, he dove into the fame and let go, without realizing it perhaps, of the love and lives of those who had got him there.
It was devastating to watch. The woman who had supported him mentally and emotionally all the way to the very end, from the day he learned to walk on the wire until the day he walked the Trade Centers, she was his support. Each of his friends had a job, hers was to read his mind, and keep him sane and faithful to his task.
Forty years later, his friend Jean-Phillipe, who hauled the wire across the void until dawn, breaks down on camera, weeping. Because, he says, "That day, this friendship is broken." All of his team watched him and described the sensation of seeing him dance on the wire as beautiful, a once in a lifetime event, each of them so full of emotion at describing what it was like to see Phillipe play on the wire for 45 minutes while the police waited to arrest him, each of them, no matter their love for his success, looses a piece of themselves into it.
And that piece was in the care of Phillipe. They gave their hearts and souls and faith to him, and part of his job in finally succeeding was excellent care-taking of those on whose backs he stood to reach such a great height.
Its a lesson we all know. But this was a beautiful and melancholy way to learn it again. In these profound moments, we are obligated to give all of ourselves back. In each of the small moments along the way, and in an expression of gratitude and love at the major ones. How else can you fully appreciate what you have done if you don't bring those who helped you do it along with you?
Its more than "Without them you wouldn't be here" its that they are here too, and it is your obligation to shine the light on them.