- Discovery Channel
- Lives on the edge, loves the Lord
Over the weekend, 29-year-old terminal brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard made final her highly publicized decision to end her life before its quality could be completely ravaged by her illness. Several doctors had told Maynard that even if they intervened she had no chance of surviving, so she decided to die gracefully, on her own terms, and as an activist at the forefront of the “death with dignity” movement. Still, there were people—the Vatican chimed in, of course—who condemned Maynard for being suicidal.
A day later, seventh-generation circus person Nik Wallenda walked across a two-inch-thick wire from Chicago’s Marina City’s west tower to the even taller Leo Burnett Building. Then he slapped on a blindfold and walked a, granted, much shorter tightrope between the two Marina City towers.
All of this took place at roughly 600 feet in the air. Nearly seven million people bit their fingernails to nubs as they watched from home, and the Sun-Times reports that around 65,000 people came downtown to see Wallenda defy death. Or, you know, not defy death this time. Next he plans to walk across the Tallulah Gorge in Georgia, which his great-grandfather Karl did in 1970, and to incorporate handstands into the act.
In case it’s been a while since you brushed up on Wallenda family history, Grandpa Karl died when he fell from a tightrope strung between two buildings in Puerto Rico in 1978. The footage is awful (and googleable). Karl falters, he tries to regain his balance, his legs sort of give out, and he tips over. Members of a horrified crowd rushed to help the old man, but he was dead. (The Discovery Channel’s “live” show on Sunday night was actually broadcast with a ten-second delay in case something horrible happened.) So the younger Wallenda is following in his great-grandfather’s literal footsteps and walking that fine line between being a totally reckless lunatic and a performer who’s just really confident in his ability to not die.
He’s also extremely confident in God, which probably helps. Wallenda was miked during his seven-minute walk from Marina City to Leo Burnett, and there was lots of chatter. Like, a disconcerting amount of chatter. At one point his father asked him to give the tightrope a bounce for the crowd to see, to which Nik replied, “I’m not going to do that, Dad.” (So he’s not totally nuts.) He also said, “I’m so blessed for these opportunities. God is so good. You guys think I’m crazy, but this is what I was made for.” By the end of the walk he was repeating God’s name like a mantra: “Praise God, God be the glory. Praise you, God, thank you, Jesus.” I guess the God bug bites you when you’re faced with dying for a living. And so Nik Wallenda will continue to defy death until one day he doesn’t—if it happens on the wire, I imagine people will praise him for going out on his own terms.