I had noticed a long time ago how things tend to come to me in groups.
Maybe it's just a coincidence or maybe I'm some sort of cosmic lightening rod or convergence point for ideas traveling through space and time.
I had been thinking of the various ways chess has been used as a metaphor or in some other symbolic way when, without even looking, I came across two extremely diverse subjects in the same day. Each one dealt with this symbolic use of chess in its own unique way.
The first subject is rather straight forward, but the second requires some detailed explanations. So, please bear with me and if my words are insufficient to command your attention, believe in the thoughts behind them and follow me to the very end. It's not at all about chess - and it's all about chess. It all depends on how you want to see it. You can pretend.
On the dawning of August 7, 1974, he danced in the sky.
That Wednesday morning all New York woke up to see Philippe Petit connect the Rooks of a structure that no longer exists. Walking, strutting, marching, running, dancing, on a 7/8" thick cable, 1350 feet above the street, he strolled back and forth from the rooftop of the South Tower of the World Trade Center to that of the North Tower for nearly an hour.
Petit - a street performer, a juggler, a magician, a pick-pocket, a lock-picker, a unicyclist -
As awe-inspiring and unimaginable his feat may seem, it was really the culmination of what may have been an equally impossible arrangement. Before attempting a walk, everything must be carefully studied and measured. All contingencies must be considered. The weather must co-operate, the proper permits must be obtained. The equipment must be bought, set-up and tested. The engineering is complex and the details are mind-boggling.
Now, imagine attending to all the preparations in secret, measuring a 104th storied rooftop in a building you are forbidden to enter, buying equipment with no money and no backers, having as your team of experts a few people who either know nothing about the art of rigging or who care little about the success of the project, knowing that no permission would ever be given and that if you are caught, you will be arrested, understanding that everything must be assembled in a rush in one night by amateurs while avoiding detection of the guards and that nothing would be tested, aware that of the hundreds of things that could go wrong, nothing must go wrong - imagine spending 6½ years of your life planning such a project, thinking of nothing else.
Impossible, yet irresistible. He must pretend.
In his beautifully written book, To Reach the Clouds, Philippe Petit describes his venture from the moment of its conception at age18 to its completion six years later and beyond. He writes of his almost inborn "disdain of my fellow man" that leads him into a life few of us would ever contemplate. He reveals his soul as an artist who is consumed by his art as it permeates every facet of his daily living.
* Philippe Petit actually re-created Charles Blondin's famous walk across the Niagra Falls in 1886.