Tuesday, May 09, 2006

...No Surprises Please

David Blaine has tested the limits of human endurance before: buried alive, frozen in a chunk of ice, and fasted for 44 days while suspended over the river Thames; unfortunately, Blaine failed to complete his most challenging stunt-holding his breath for nine minutes- last night in the plaza at Lincoln Center. Muret Gunel, the head of Blaine's medical team said, "He still feels today like he let people down." Indeed, but only because we do not like to see our own weaknesses and limitations reflected back to us live on network TV.

I know I wanted Blaine to succeed. For me, there was something beautifully poetic -perhaps even magical- about Blaine's attempt that only a strange and internal feeling can truly describe yet words often fail to achieve. It is that feeling one experiences when craning their neck to marvel at a skyscraper or when witnessing someone beat a sports record. During these moments the whole of humanity seems to take a great collective leap forward, as if one man's success somehow makes us all faster, stronger, and smarter. In a world so consumed with conflict, sparse natural resources, and advanced technologies (often difficult to comprehend, let alone navigate), our failures and challenges make us feel weak and broken; thus, it is inspirational to see a man challenge these limits of physical and mental endurance so as to try and take another leap. Blaine's attempt was for his mind to transcend the limits of his body and even matter itself. He failed.

Regardless, throughout the week Blaine spent underwater, he was visited by people daily and succeeded in showing them all something beautiful. The happiness he brought to these onlookers was magic in itself and we should comend him for this. Blaine was already an ideal before his stunt and will most certainly not let this failure deter him from more ambitous imaginings. I'd like to pretend the orginal record for holding breath underwater was 6 minutes and 30 seconds, so that Blaine's seven minutes would've been a success. Regretably this was not the case, Blaine instead only confirmed the limits of our collective human experience and that these limits are often there to teach us more about who we are, this, in its own sense, is true magic.



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