It has never been necessary to run away and join the circus.

We enter the tent at birth, and are given the opportunity to play several roles before deciding upon a career. The vast majority decide to be spectators. They just sit on the hard sagging seats and watch the others perform. Viewed from the center of the tent, they run together and assume a dull shade of grey.

There is also an overabundance of weightlifters and animal tamers. They wear leopard-skin costumes and swagger through the circus pretending to be real. The spectators are often fooled, but the other performers are not.

High-wire artists abound. They wear sequined costumes and work diligently to stay well above the crowd, looking down upon the spectators and performers alike. But from way up near the roof, they can neither speak to those below, nor hear them. And since they are always in useless motion, they may only talk to one another as they pass in the air. When they fall, it is usually fatal, since they really have nothing to say when they land.

Others appoint themselves ringmaster. They dress in fine livery, and talk very loud to no one in particular. They bark frequent orders to the spectators, who obey them, and to the performers, who do not. But primarily, they try very hard to explain the circus to anyone who will listen, never realizing that they have no understanding of any of the acts.

And there are animal acts, and sword swallowers, and magicians, and other acts too numerous to mention. Each of them builds a personal microcosm within the circus, and never again ventures forth. Even though they wear very different costumes, they are easy to recognize. They are the ones with the blinders on.

It may be that the true joy is in being a clown. You are pummeled with rubber duckpins, crowded into tiny cars and squirted with seltzer bottles. At least in this guise you may interact with the crowd, and with the other performers, and with yourself. Clowns can mock the ringmaster, climb the ladder to the highest wire, and leap into the crowd at will. They may be both entertaining and entertained. They are free to learn and to teach, as long as it is done with humor.

Clowns may even ride the lions, if they wish.


Kermit []