Philosophy Lite: Walking the straight, narrow
Millions of people worldwide were watching Nik Wallenda walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls last Friday night. Not only was the walk long and high, but the weather conditions were dangerous.
Nik was exceptionally calm in his spirit as he began the walk, and he was very self-possessed throughout the experience.
Two things were important here: his years of experience, starting at age two, and his Christian faith. Both he and his family had confidence he could do it, otherwise his father, wife and children would have tried to talk him out of it.
I have had the privilege of watching Tino Wallenda do the high wire at several Bill Glass prison ministries. Tino is a strong Christian, and he has the opportunity to share that faith through his act.
With a wireless microphone, he communicates with the inmates 20 feet off the ground. As he starts the walk, he tells his audience that it is important to to keep one's eyes on an unmoving point - to focus on that point and keep that as your goal, not being distracted by looking around.
He fakes a fall, but picks himself up and says, if you have a fall in life, you pick yourself up and keep going. Other such comments relate to real life experiences that the inmates are sure to connect to their own.
He often stands on his head on the wire and also walks backward. The highlight of the performance is when he brings out a chair and sits in it balanced midway across the wire.
To add an extra impact, he then stands in the chair and delivers God's plan of salvation. His act has probably brought more men to Christ than any other prison guest performer.
Tino, who is Nik's uncle, has recently written a book about his life. He starts with the Wallenda family of circus performers: acrobats, jugglers, trapeze artists and so on, going back several generations. His grandfather Karl, aged 73, died in a fall in Puerto Rico, and some of the troupe perished when a complicated three-tier act collapsed.
Tino has said that he does not expect to die in a fall. He is very meticulous about setting up the rigging he is to perform on. And, of course, his strong Christian faith gives him peace. Life really comes into focus on the high wire.
He has recently written a book about his family, his heritage and his profession. The title is, "Walking the Straight and Narrow: Lessons in Faith From the High Wire." His philosophy of life is to be like Jesus. Life is a tightrope walk, he says. If you focus on Jesus, you will reach your goal.
You will keep your balance and you will not slip and fall.
You can view one of Tino's high wire acts on the Internet; just Google "Tino Wallenda" and look for the video. His act was at night on the Fourth of July in St. Louis between two buildings, six stories high.
Raymond F. Smith is president of Strong Families of Victoria.