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A Lesson From A Tightrope Walker

January 18, 2018

Here is a true story to keep in mind.  It will help you stay enthusiastic and focused on your goals

This story takes place in a Soviet labor camp during the time of Stalin’s rule. One of the prisoner’s of the camp was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Futerfas. Being a Rabbi, he made it a point to get to know all of the other Jewish inmates, who were imprisoned there simply because they were Jews.

One of the inmates that he met was someone who claimed that he was a tightrope walker. The Rabbi was very curious to learn more, because he couldn’t imagine how anyone could accomplish this feat and why anyone would choose to do something so dangerous. In keeping with his belief that from everyone, there is something to be learned, he asked for an explanation.

Words couldn’t possibly give an adequate understanding as well as a demonstration could. This was impossible until the day Stalin died and the guards relaxed many of the restrictions. So the tightrope walker found a rope and attached it to the outside of two buildings about fifteen yards apart and about ten feet off the ground with no net. At first, he fell after only a few steps since he hadn’t done this in a long time. Then he confidently proceeded to dance across the rope, turn around and return. When he got back down the Rabbi asked “How do you do it?” The tightrope walker answered,

“It’s simple. Before I begin, I find an object on the other end and focus on it. I don’t dare take my eyes off the object while I’m walking. I don’t look to the right; I don’t look to the left. As long as I focus on my goal, I make it across”.

After reading this story, you might wonder, “if one is so focused on the goal, what about being in the moment”?

Again, think of the Tightrope Walker —– “On the one hand”*, he is focused on getting to the other end and that is his goal.  “On the other hand”* , in order to get there, every step must be taken with precision.

With precision and purpose!  In the moment – precision.  With purpose – to reach the goal.

Heart and Soul

*  from “Fiddler on the Roof”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Helen permalink
    January 19, 2018 1:17 pm

    Thx again for your story


  2. Matt permalink
    January 18, 2018 8:17 am

    Good essay. It might give insight and answers why a kid can appear so focused on a game that his/her body language shows no sign of emotion whether he/she is winning or losing.

    • Fred Fox permalink
      January 18, 2018 9:15 am

      It was said of Muhammad Ali that he fought like a champion even when he was losing

  3. gooddogbill permalink
    January 18, 2018 7:32 am

    Thank you, Fred. This felt like a wonderful meeting of Talmud and Zen.

    With the storm surf recently, I’ve been really challenged in trying to get out of Santa Cruz harbor on my Outrigger canoe.

    The waves need to be respected for sure. But I think–like the Tightrope Walker, using focus would quiet the screaming little men in my head who are not helping at all when the waves are thudding and crashing.

    And of course what’s exquisite is that this doesn’t just apply to Paddlers, Tightrope Walkers, and zanies. A great teaching for getting through this larger life. Blessings.

    • Fred Fox permalink
      January 18, 2018 9:16 am

      Well said and thanks


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