Now that Ringling Bros. have announced their final season, I find myself reflecting on the word circus. What will happen to it, if there is no more circus? Will it re-boot itself to mean something new? After all, the original “circus” was simply the arena Romans used for horse races and other outdoor entertainments. What will happen to all our wonderful metaphors – like “running away to join the circus”, or “you should have been there, it was a real circus!”
My colleague Hardin Minor (who happens to be a clown and mime) rushed to see The Greatest Show on Earth the other day. “I had to go! It’s our last chance! They had every animal you can imagine, and gigantic pigs dancing with dogs! And the Cossacks on their horses, one guy fell off and he was dragged around the ring. And I mean it was all real, right there, not video! And it ended with a kangaroo hopping into the arena! A real kangaroo hopping around! And the clowns! What will happen to the clowns?”
Clowns have been the sacred representatives of our folly since the dawn of time. In fact, Hardin once ran for City Council on the slogan, “Put a real clown in office.” (Sadly, he didn’t win.) It seems that right now, we could all use a little humor. I sincerely hope that once the circus closes down, we find new venues for our sacred fools. Perhaps the White House? The Greatest Show on Earth?
If we could all admit our folly, take a moment to laugh at ourselves, perhaps we might defuse some of the anger and tension in today’s atmosphere. Moshe Feldenkrais taught a wonderful lesson where he instructed the class to “Imagine the corners of your mouth widening. Now imagine the corners of your eyes moving outward as well.” We would all do well to remember to try this several times a day. And if the circus comes to your town – go!