Claremont Insider: A Window on Our World

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Window on Our World

But this is what we do: we dream on, and our dreams escape us almost as vividly as we can imagine them. This is what happens, like it or not....

Coach Bob knew it all along: you've got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.

John Irving,
The Hotel New Hampshire

We were watching the 2008 documentary Man on Wire the other day and could not help but be struck by the enormous distance between 1974, when the events depicted in the film occurred, and the post-9/11 now.

The movie, if you haven't seen it, chronicles the story of Philippe Petit, the French aerialist, performance artist, street entertainer, and/or con man (take your pick) who, in August, 1974, managed to string 450 pounds of steel cable between the two World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan and then proceeded to spend nearly 45 minutes walking the high wire a quarter-mile in the air.

At first glance, one is tempted to view Petit's story as a mere attention-getting stunt. However, as with any real art, behind the apparent effortlessness of the event lay months, years of meticulous planning and practice entailing several trans-Atlantic trips to surveil the target, all of which eerily presaged today's terrorists.

And that is precisely where the reality of 1974 diverges from 2010 because rather than trying to destroy the towers, Petit succeeded in celebrating both them and New York. He was, of course, arrested and charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. The charges were dropped in exchange for Petit conducting a performance for children in Central Park. The Port Authority also awarded Petit a lifetime pass to South Tower's observation deck.

Obsession of the sort underpinning such artistry can prove as constructive as the other unhealthy sort of obsessiveness can be destructive. That we get. Not that we Insiders make any claims to art, high or otherwise, but we have discovered that as long as we inhabit this community, we cannot help but be drawn back into the occasional silliness, melodrama, conflict, etc., of our little town. We don't know much, but we know that much.

Have some patience, and keep checking in.

* * * * *