Philippe Petit on Creativity: "The Perfect Crime"

Dubbed "the artistic crime of the century," Philippe Petit's smuggling of the equipment needed to string a wire between the two World Trade Towers in 1974, and the long walk in a high place that followed, electrified the world.

Many years later, in one of the more memorable IdeaFestival presentations, Petit eletrified the festival audience, talking about his life, problem solving, fear, how to make mistakes, the art of misdirection and, in the question and answer that followed, posted here, revealing details of a life singularly led.

Here are a few of the quotes from the talk that found their way to Twitter in 2010.

  • 'We should have courses in intuition in university because it is a great force.'
  • 'When I wire walk, I link two things with my wire that could possibly have been enemies and for a time are at peace.' - Brad Bigelow
  • 'It's a joy to solve a problem. When you have a problem, don't look for solution, look at the problem. The answer is behind its face.' - Ellen McGirt
  • 'Fear is a lack of knowledge.' - Ellen McGirt
  • 'A ladder is two posts that has a festival of holes - think space, not rungs.' - Ellen McGirt
  • 'We should not let fear fade the song of our soul.'
  • 'We are born with the impossible in us.'

Reflecting a little more on Petit's forthcoming book, Creativity: The Perfect Crime, the "criminal" part of originality, I believe, may be its departure from strict human reason and logic, which can only take the would-be creative so far. Having been to many, many festival presentations, that departure is critically important to the kind of change any of us get, that in some sense creative outcomes, whether they be in the sciences, in the arts or in economic development, depend the willingness to entertain "the impossible in us." Yes, of course there are impossibilities. But sadly, too many of us settle for the certainties; the rules, as is often the case, are self-imposed.

Live a little bit longer with that idea of yours. If it's truly original, no one knows that now.

Stay curious.

You can read a little more about Petit in this NPR piece. His book, Creativity: The Perfect Crime, will be available May 15.