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Tightrope Walker Giving Me A Not-So-Subtle Push

July 20th, 2009 - written by Brian Utley

I watched an amazing film last night called Man On Wire. It got me thinking. This film is probably the best documentary film I have ever seen. The premise isn’t that exciting, the guy walks a tightrope between the two towers. Now, that is pretty crazy, right? But is it? As I watched the film I began to change my mind. It wasn’t crazy at all. It wasn’t even stupid. It was dangerous, yes, but it was also amazing and beautiful and transcendent.

But this post isn’t about the movie. It’s about what the movie taught me. It’s about what the movie taught me about the things that are going on in my mind, with what I’m involved in now, with this, the crazy goal of reading this much. 52 books isn’t so crazy anymore. Reading and tightrope walking are not the same. I’m not in any way comparing the two. Not even the goals exist on the same plane.

And with that I realized that I’m wasting my time. But I also realized that I don’t need to tightrope-walk really high in the air to maximize the time I spend doing something that drives me. Philippe Petit wasn’t content with the easy walk. He wanted something that challenged him, an act that pushed him far beyond himself.

Now, I know that I’ll never accomplish anything remotely close to our Monsieur Petit. But, I’m in the middle of doing something that I didn’t think I’d be able to do. I’m walking my own tightrope. So why am I wasting my time walking a tightrope that is only a few feet off the ground? Metaphors aside, why am I wasting my time with books that aren’t challenging, that don’t inspire as much as books are supposed to? I’ll tell you why. It’s because I know that books on the NYT bestseller list, or that are face-out on the bookshelves, or are getting 4.5 stars at Amazon are going to be no-doubters in the sense that I won’t feel I wasted money by reading them. Nobody will. Because, like so much bad T.V., they’re written to sell. They’re written with society’s “lowest-common denominator” in mind. As we’ve seen with some fantastic T.V. shows, too interesting equates to too few people in the audience.

There are exceptions in my current reading list. But I’m not challenging myself enough by moving outside the realm of what kinds of literature I’m comfortable with.

Self-Help? Out.
Better Business? Out.
Clever Memoir That EVERYONE loves? Out.
Baseball? Not happening.
Programming? *shrug*

You get my point.

Drop me off in the middle of Europe with no map. Throw me in the jungle with no food and a small blade. Give me scuba gear and tell me to find the gold. Put me high in the mountains with only my sneakers. This, after all, is the point of literature, right? Take me someplace I’ve never seen. Take me on an adventure I’ve never been.

I’ve been in the psychiatrist’s chair.
I’ve been in the conference room.
I’ve lived a life worth a memoir.
I’ve watched baseball.
and I’ve done some programming.


And THAT is the message of Man On Wire.

Tightrope Walker Giving Me A Not-So-Subtle Push

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