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.


espee said...

he's betrayer no doubt...heartbreaking for true friends, now aint a fan of him anymore seeing how he betrayed all those that helped made the impossible possible! just heart wrenching

Unknown said...

I agree, its tragic. But I think its a great lesson, being able to see him after it was all said and done. He accomplished something incredible, and then let his ego feed him, and in losing any humility and gratitude, also lost the love of his friends. For the rest of his life, he had his accomplishment but not his loves.

It was really interesting to me to see how incredibly costly that was in the long run, and reminds me to be thankful and grateful for the people I love and who love me.

I'm sad for him, but grateful for his lesson!

Thanks so much for reading!

Mansoor Awan said...

Its unacceptable of course but he was walking the wire. He took the risk to stay up there and display stunt. Others could not even watch.of course he should have supported his friends.

What he did is pretty much true for all great statesman all excellent ceos steve jobs inventors Mary Curie Einstein Braun etc without support and work of others they would not be celebrity today.
Not sure I would agree with you all to dismiss his skill passion and drive. Not sure why girlfriend was on ground when he did the stunt. She deserved more than anyone however.

Anonymous said...

I guess I missed something. Thank you first btw for the thread. I googled "man on wire why did he lose his friends" not thinking I would find anything. I still don't understand what happened. Did his friends go back to France forever w/o him because he blew them off? It was unclear what the aftermath was. Estrangement? Is that why his buddy was crying? Thanks again.