On Friday night, Nik Wallenda–a renowned stuntman from a famous circus family, and also a Sarasotan–crossed Niagara Falls by tightrope.
Sarasota had been buzzing about Wallenda’s stunt all week; a big downtown block party had even been organized so locals could watch it, and according to reports, hundreds of people turned up to do just that. I had plans to be in Orlando this weekend, so instead of joining in with the local celebrators, I curled up on my parents’ couch with my mom, dad and the dogs and watched the walk on television.
It was an interesting range of emotions that washed over me as I watched what transpired in Niagara Falls that evening: What began as indifference (“I’ll watch 20 or 30 minutes of this, tops,” I thought at first) quickly turned into excitement (someone was actually going to tightrope-walk Niagara Falls), then awe (the falls are so breathtakingly beautiful, and even more transfixing at 10 p.m. at night, a contrast of dark, almost-black rapids and frothy white waterfalls), then nervousness (the rain and mist were intense; what if he slipped and fell?), then sheer, unbridled pride when it was all over, not only for Nik Wallenda–he’d made his lifelong dream come true! Talk about moving!–but also for (and yes, I realize how icky this might sound, but bear with me) human beings in general.
The thing is–and I know I’m going to be greeted with a great big round of “Um, duh”s when I make this next statement, but hear me out, I have a point–we live in a world that is incredibly dependent on technology. (Um, duh.) I’m pretty much attached to my iPhone at all times–hello, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, etc.–and it’s hard for me to unplug even after a day of work at my desk in front of the computer; I often come home and spend even more time on my laptop, usually until my eyes glaze over or the cats start looking at me like, “Shut that thing off and pet us, woman.” I will say that this behavior seems to be very commonplace, but, of course, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing, does it?
So to watch the 33-year-old Wallenda walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope using no fancy technology whatsoever felt, to me, like a victory for all of us. In an age where everything is motorized, computerized, digitized, instantly accessible and often forgotten as quickly as it happens, Wallenda’s walk–which he completed using only elkskin-soled shoes and a balance beam–felt like a throwback to the good old days; a reminder of the sheer power of the human body and of determination, perseverance, sweat equity and simplicity.
Amazing photo of Nik Wallenda, above, by Frank Gunn for The Canadian Press/AP Photo; black-and-white effect by yours truly.