Everybody loves the circus. Nonstop fun and excitement. Danger too. There’s a good reason the trapeze artists have a safety net. No matter how many years of practice, pain and sweat trying to be one unit, a team, they are ultimately individuals. Individuals trying to be a team , but, individuals nonetheless.
The ringmaster and the dancing bears. Practice, practice practice. One misstep and catastrophe . A bear as part of a team, is still a bear. An individual. Fall off the ball, the audience boos. Start over because you live for the applause.
Walking across the tightrope, balancing pole in hands, trying to keep your body weight centered. Get all the way across. Don’t fall. You know a few in the audience are there hoping to witness disaster. But most applaud your success. After holding their breath.
Jugglers tossing pins, balls, knives, fire torches even chainsaws. A team by practice. Individuals by nature. A team by necessity. One slip and… It takes years to be able to entertain you for minutes. Danger everywhere. The more danger, the more entertaining.
And then, among all the circus acts and personalities, there are the clowns. The ultimate individuals. Different makeup, costumes and persona . The sillier they look, the better we like them. Clowns are supposed to be funny. They are. But there’s another side to clowns. If something goes wrong, as it sometimes does, the clowns become a unit. They go into action to divert your attention from impending disaster. A fall, a missed catch or some other miscue. The side of clowns we seldom see. Hopefully never see.
Sometimes our life is a circus. We are constantly trying to be a part of something. Juggling pins, sometimes chainsaws. We live with the constant possibility of falling off the high wire. Missing the net. We want our lives to go smoothly. A good life rewarded with good living. But sometimes your timing is off by a millisecond. Your hand misses the trapeze. The horse you are standing on stumbles. A fall imminent. A constant reminder that no matter what we do, ultimately, our lives are affected by others, we have to rely on not only ourselves. Skill is vital. As is luck. As you start on that triple somersault, you understand that your skillset is second to that of the person catching you. You hope for the best. The last thing you want to see is the clowns.
But maybe that’s not true. Maybe the laughter and joy they bring overrides the possible negatives. Maybe we should just look for the happiness they bring. The smiles. The bright side.
Send in the clowns.
By Fred Prout