Thoughts & Views: We can all walk that tightrope

This past Sunday evening, a global audience tuned in to the Discovery Channel to watch the aerialist Nik Wallenda tackle another death-defying stunt.

On this occasion, Wallenda – of the Flying Wallendas circus family – would walk along a tightrope linking two 500-foot-plus high skyscrapers in Chicago – the Windy City – sans harness or safety rope.

And (drum roll, please) he would do part of the walk up an incline and another while wearing a blindfold.

This is the same fellow who, two years ago, strolled across Niagara Falls. (ABC insisted he wear protection for that one.)

“If I want to inspire others, I feel like I have to continue to push myself,” Wallenda told The New York Times in its Saturday edition. “I thought a blindfold would be very exciting.”

Duh.

To me, exciting is managing to get out of bed in the morning without tripping over my own feet. Or pitching a softball without getting whacked by a line drive back through the box. Or performing on stage and not forgetting my lines.

Why push it?

Well, obviously there are some among us for whom life just ain’t worth living unless you do all you can do – however that translates in your own universe.

If you happen to be an entertainer on a world stage like Wallenda, I guess it’s the notion of rising to ever greater challenges that keeps you going.

Some people might see that as ego satisfaction – and there’s probably a pinch of that influencing the man on the wire – but if we are to accept his words, “inspire others,” as truthful, then we can look beyond personal acclaim to the idea that he’s taking us mere mortals along with him on his perilous journey.

That he’s putting the notion in our heads that we, too, have it in us to rise to the occasion, to be all that we can be, in the noblest and finest way in serving our fellow creatures.

Take, for example, the health care professionals – like Doctors Without Borders and their attending nurses like Kaci Hickox – who have put their lives on the line to work with the unfortunate victims of Ebola in West Africa.

There is the great courage of Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani girl shot and nearly killed by the Taliban in October 2012 for daring to advocate for a girl’s right to an education in her country and continuing to speak out in the face of persistent death threats.

Let us not forget the contributions made by test pilots, like co-pilot Michael Alsbury, who was killed this past Friday in the crash of Virgin Galactic’s experimental Space- ShipTwo in the Mojave Desert, and pilot Peter Siebold, who was seriously hurt after parachuting from the plane. And, before them, of course, Amelia Earhart and countless others who risked their lives … yes, probably for fame, but also for the advancement of aviation.

Let’s not forget Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the Mississippi Freedom Fighters who were an inspiration to the cause of civil rights.

Yes, they all walked their own type of tightrope because they believed that in pursuing something bigger than themselves that the world would be better for it.

– Ron Leir 

The Observer Staff