Paul P. Mealing

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Thursday, 16 October 2008

The philosophy of Philippe Petit

I never intended to write movie reviews but this is certainly relevant to philosophy in more ways than one. Last night I saw the film, Man On Wire, which is the story of Philippe Petit, who walked between the New York Trade Centre twin towers in 1974, after he walked between the north pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1973 and between the Notre Dame towers in 1971.

After the film, we were then privileged by an interview with Philippe, now 59, who, also, at his own insistence, answered questions from the audience. The film won an award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and deservedly so. It’s an extraordinary film about a truly extraordinary man, and to see and hear him in the flesh is just as revelatory as watching him in the film.

When you meet someone like Philippe you realise that this is evolution in action. He is such an unusual person, who really doesn’t fit in normal society, yet he can do things that the rest of us can’t even contemplate doing. He made the comment in another interview (that I read) that curtailing his activities is like cutting a bird’s wings – it’s what they are meant to do. To quote: ‘Where is imagination? Where is the beauty of living? I am not advocating danger, but at the same time, to force birds to carry a leash is to kill the idea of what a bird is.’

In the interview, I was lucky to be audience to, he continually surprised us with his answers, at once candid and honest, and also deeply profound. He said he does not think about death – he won’t even use the ‘D’ word, it is the ‘L’ word, Life that he looks in the eye, while surrounded by terror. When he is aerial, he truly lives in the moment – I cannot think of anyone more Zen than he is, yet he is typically French: animated, talkative, elfish even, yet, in his own way, deeply philosophical and wise. 'I don't believe in God, but God believes in me,' he said in response to one question.

Go and see the film, and be contaminated by his madness and his energy that is, paradoxically, so, so sane.


Anonymous said...

Paul,I think your article and summary subscribes to my view entirely........Philippe's story encompasses the philosopy of living. Viva la difference!!!

Paul P. Mealing said...

Thanks Anonymous,

Glad you approve.

Regards, Paul.

Dominique Andrey said...

This is an email I received from a friend, which I'm posting with his permission.

Hi Paul,

I saw the movie. Breathtaking, moving, inspiring.

It is funny to think that the movie was mentioning the whole "coup" was planned like a bank robery and during the interview he made this analogy with a bird in leash. In French we have only one word for two different things: VOL
1. robbery
2. flight

Interesting, isn't it?


kind regards