On the way home, my mother and dad would always ask me what I had liked best. Such an impossible question! Undoubtedly, what impressed me most were the artists who performed on the high wire. Watching, but not really wanting to watch, I could hardly believe my eyes. With crooked neck I would stare at a daredevil as he ventured out on a single strand of wire maybe a thousand feet above the ground (at least my child’s eye believed it had to be at least a thousand feet) with a balancing bar firmly grasped in his hands. In great anticipation I nervously watched until he crossed to the other side. And then, he would throw that bar away and walk back empty-handed! As if that was not enough to unravel my nerves, he then would cross for the second time, only this time riding a bicycle! Finally, for the finale, a woman would ride upon his shoulders as he crossed the wire for the last time. I remember applauding not only because of my amazement at such courage, but also out of relief the act was finally over.
But I also told my parents that what I enjoyed the most was what came after the impressive act on the high wire. There would be a little red car that would come out from nowhere — speeding, backfiring, veering this way and that, honking its horn until it reached the center ring. And then, an unbelievable number of clowns would emerge from the roof of that car, running and bumping into each other, falling over their own enormous feet, honking bright red noses, pants falling down revealing polka dot boxer shorts. I would laugh until my side ached. What a relief they were after holding my breath during the high-wire act.
As I have grown into adulthood, I have come to understand the circus as more than a simple form of entertainment. There is something about the circus that is profoundly significant, as it is a reminder to all of us of who we are.
Within each one of is a high-wire artist who has the courage to take the risk to attempt what appears impossible. This is the part of all of us that realizes that with enough concentration and focus we can accomplish just about anything. We all, as high-wire artists, have the capability of amazing not only others — but ourselves — with our unbelievable potentials.
But, also within each one of is a bumbling, fumbling clown. And the clown within us, although full of merriment and mischievousness, is fearful of our high-wire potential.
Why risk when are so capable of making such fools of ourselves? How easy it is to trip over our own two feet! How do we balance our high-wire potential with clownlike limitations?
First, I believe we need an openness and compassion to the clownlike side of who we are. Never does it help to be contemptuous of our own bumbling or other bumblers of this world. When we find ourselves tripping over our own feet or running into walls or falling flat on our faces, we especially need to be kind to ourselves.
Second, we need to challenge ourselves to venture onto the high wire on occasion. Of course, as we venture out, we should be aware that some are watching with crocked necks, half hoping we will fall. With folded arms they stand in judgement. Don’t worry about those observers. They’re the ones who play it safe and never have the courage to climb the ladder, much less venture out on the wire.
Third, surround yourself with other high-wire artists. Seek out those who have the courage to try the high-wires in life. You will find that their lives are rich and full of excitement.
Fourth, don’t try to live on the high-wire. Understand the balance between acceptance and expectation. If you don’t, you are just setting yourself up for a major fall. Put on your clown suit and play until your heart is content. Then venture back onto the high wire. Only then will you maintain the proper balance that will keep you from falling.