I can’t sit still. Never could. As a child I was so desperate to get out of school and run around that I would will the classroom clocks to leap ahead – I believe that is how I developed my psychic control over timepieces!
As a young man my relentless energy drove me continually to new challenges, which kept my career moving fast but often meant I didn’t hang around long enough to reap the financial rewards of schemes I started.
And even now, as the father of two grown-up children, my attention span is sometimes so fleeting that one eminent psychologist tried to tell me I had ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I never found out what prompted his diagnosis – my phone rang halfway through his explanation …
If you have a child or a grandchild who can’t sit still either, do what my mother did and let that energy flow as much as possible. It could be your youngster’s passport to fame and fortune. I can only gape in awe at the feats of my friend, David Blaine. He has the focus and strength of will to remain motionless, not just for minutes or hours at a time, but for days. Last year he stood like a statue on a platform no bigger than a pizza box, on top of a 90ft pole in Manhattan’s Bryant Park, for 35 hours. He neither slept nor ate. I would have thrown myself off after 20 minutes, just for something to do. His other unique performances, undreamt of even by his hero Houdini, include being encased in ice in Time Square for five days, and lying in a transparent box under a water tank.
But this week David attempts a feat of will that makes all his previous achievements look like a child’s game of freeze-tag. At 8pm of Friday (5 Sept) he will be locked inside a transparent coffin, seven feet high and seven feet deep, and just three feet across. The Plexiglass container will be hoisted by a crane over the Thames beside Tower Bridge, and for 44 days and nights David will exist without food or human contact. His only water will come via a feeding tube. “I will have no food, no sex, no phones, no books, no music, no television, no privacy and no other stimulus,” he said. “It will be a public isolation that I will have to endure by adapting and surviving as an animal on instinct.”
I have deep misgivings about this project. David’s powers of endurance are phenomenal, and I think he will be able to survive the starvation, though it would kill most other men. Last year a Falun Gong demonstrator in China staged a hunger strike in protest at the regime’s brutal repression of religious and spiritual freedom – he held out without food for 91 days. David has expert nutritional advice, and has added about 20lb of bodyweight in preparation.
But I truly fear for his mental health. Terry Waite, the envoy who was held in solitary confinement for months on end by Arab terrorists, told me that the psychological agony of being utterly alone is far worse than any beatings the torturers can inflict. Add to that the mental pressure of being trapped in such a small space, suspended over the river and naked to the gaze of eight million Londoners, and I am horrified at what this could do to my friend’s mind.
David has a reputation for being silent and inscrutable. He reduced Eamonn Holmes almost to tears on GMTV last year by answering every question with a monosyllable or a grunt. You have to get to know him before you realise that he’s an unflinchingly honest man – and that he prefers to say nothing than to tell a half-truth or leave a false impression.
He is also a hopeless giggler. When he finds something funny, he doesn’t let it go. I’ve seen him lying on the floor of my people carrier, gasping for breath, his arms wrapped around his ribs, laughing so hard he doesn’t have the strength to climb back onto his seat. So if you do go to see him at Tower Bridge, try not to make him laugh. If the hunger doesn’t get him, the giggles might. I’m trying to make light of my worries, but the simple fact is that David has set himself a challenge so intense it will take a miracle for him to come out unscathed. I know he won’t back down.
He’s too stubborn to change the rules of the game now. When he is finally released from his see-through tomb, live on Channel 4 on 19 October, I will be ready to offer any help I can to speed his recovery.
But until then, I will be doing the only thing possible: praying for a miracle.
Motivational Inspirational Speaker
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