Monday, November 03, 2014

Nik Wallenda in the Sky

Up among the rooftops of the Chicago skyline, Nik Wallenda's Sunday stroll memorized me. I The whole time I watched at home with my body halfway turned away. I grunted and groaned, much to the dismay of my wife. I was not looking for a disaster, but for beauty. There was even some inspiration to be found in the over-hyped, over-commercialized event. The showman is also the artist.

I've been interested in Nik Wallenda and his story for some time now. I'm generally pretty late to things like the whole Wallenda show: allergic to many of the "must-sees" of our culture. But Nik's walk over the Grand Canyon hooked me in. There is something about walking on a wire that leaves me spellbound. When I went to the Ringling Brothers Circus a few years ago I needed to be right under the high wire act and loved every terrifying moment. When I saw the great documentary, Man on Wire, about Philippe Petit's illegal walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, I thought it was one of the best movies I'd ever seen. Defying the laws of physics... defying the laws of fear... I love it. Truly, as Nik puts it: to walk the wire is to live.

There are so many levels to the Nik Wallenda phenomenon:
1. It's a dare-devil act, in the style rarely seen any more.

2. It's family. The enmeshedness of the family is fascinating. Generations have been taking up the family business. They take on all the responsibilities: mom made Nik's shoes, an uncle handles setting up the wires, dad talks Nik through every step, wife and kids await Nik's return. This is not a normal family, nor should they be seen as a model family, but the way they work together is amazing.

3. It's art. Iconic images (Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, Chicago Skyline) juxtaposed with this little dot-of-a-man casually walking across. It's beautiful.

4. It's mortality in your face. I can't walk across a high bridge or out on a 29th floor balcony without fear freezing me on the spot. I've been on top of the World Trade Center, outside, and in the open air section of the CN Tower in Toronto. The wind blows hard up there. How can he do it?

5. It's faith in God. Nik is a believer and credits his faith for his ability to walk on a wire, to be a husband and father, and to be the best person he can be. With all the gravitas of an evangelical preacher, Nik will keep saying "Thank you Jesus."

6. It's a lesson in training. You don't just go out and walk a wire. It takes daily discipline and practice. Because Nik walks the walk every day and physically trains he is then be ready to walk that walk 600 feet in the air. This connects again with faith, for in the same way it takes daily training in faith in order to produce the fruit of the spirit.

So Nik... Keep on walking. Place three hours of commercials before your show and even wear advertisements up and down your body. Pray with Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Billy Graham and Max Lucado before your walk. It's all fine with me. I'll be watching because what you do is beautiful.

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