And So It Begins
First there was a Ringmaster, and before anything else he set up a tent with three rings. The rings were empty, and the Ringmaster strolled quietly throughout the tent. The Ringmaster went to the first ring, and in the first ring he evoked wonder, and the wonder made a distinction between the unordinary and the ordinary. The Ringmaster found this sense of wonder to be delightful, and he pondered this as he stepped out of the first ring.
The Ringmaster went to the second ring, and in the second ring he evoked amusement, and the amusement made a distinction between the funny and the serious. The Ringmaster found this sense of amusement to be enjoyable, and he pondered this as he stepped out of the second ring.
The Ringmaster went to the third ring, and in the third ring he didn’t evoke anything in particular, but he did reflect on the sense of wonder he had in the first ring and the sense of amusement he had in the second ring. As he reflected on these things he was inspired by the unordinary and the funny, and this gave him a new perspective on the ordinary and the serious. His head was filled with all sorts of ideas when he stepped out of the third ring.
The First Ring
The Ringmaster found himself swimming and soaring inside his own head, afloat and adrift in the ideas that were coming to life in his mind. He was startled into an awareness that he was not alone, but he was reluctant to leave the cocoon of his thoughts. Eventually his awareness grew irresistible, and he began remembering his own form, and then suddenly he plummeted back into his body. He opened his eyes and saw his brother dancing about, and he remembered what he wanted to tell him.
“I just had the dream again where I was flying. I never feel more confident than I do when I have that dream. Is there a way that we could recreate that here?” said the Ringmaster.
The Ringmaster’s brother nodded and said, “I can’t remember the last time I met anyone this side of the angels who was even willing to fly. If you could find someone who is willing, I could give them the ability.”
The Ringmaster pointed to the first ring and asked, “Could we do it over there?”
The Ringmaster’s brother grinned and said, “I’ll go get the rope.”
The Ringmaster started out by demonstrating to his brother all of the maneuvers he had dreamed up while flying among the ideas in his head. At the same time his brother was hurling great lengths of rope into the air to get a good look at it from that perspective. As their experiments began to take shape, the shape that they gradually took was that of a trapeze. The Ringmaster and his brother examined the trapeze that they had created, and it sparked in them a sense of wonder.
As the trapeze swung toward the Ringmaster, he became aware that the movement was as graceful as it was powerful. It was an angelic display of beauty, and in awe he called out, “Who are you?”
She didn’t know what had happened or how she got there. A faint feeling of recognition flashed across her face when she thought she saw a lion out of the corner of her eye, but she decided that it must have been an apparition or a trick of light. It took her a second to realize that she was flying, and a second more to realize that someone was speaking to her. Without thinking she said, “I am your acrobat,” as she waved to The Ringmaster.
The Ringmaster clapped his hands, and the acrobat recognized instantly that this was her first memory of music. She climbed down to the ground with the same natural ease that she had when she was maneuvering in the air. The trapeze continued stirring overhead as other acrobats arrived in the same manner after her. The Ringmaster approached her and began telling her how wonderful it was to have all of them there in the first ring of the circus. The ring was bustling in such a way that it seemed it had always been bustling, and so it was that the ring took on a life of its own.
The Second Ring
The Ringmaster was distracted as he approached the second of his three rings. Though he was intending to work on plans for the second ring, he couldn’t help noticing that his brother was involved in some kind of commotion just outside the tent. The Ringmaster went outside and saw that his brother was yelling and throwing things, but he didn’t seem to be particularly angry.
The Ringmaster approached his brother and said, “What is going on out here?”
His brother picked up a tomato, threw it at a rowdy crowd of people, and said, “Shenanigans! This group of ne’er-do-wells was wandering by, and when I asked what they were doing they challenged me to a snowball fight.”
The Ringmaster took a moment to scan the area and said, “I can’t help noticing that there’s no snow anywhere in sight.”
His brother jumped out of the way of a rapidly approaching clod of dirt and said, “It’s somewhat unorthodox, there’s no question about that. But this doesn’t seem like a group that would let that kind of detail interfere with the progress of a good snowball fight.”
The Ringmaster laughed as the so-called snowball fight continued, and he began hatching a new idea as he watched. He approached the group of ne’er-do-wells and said, “I can see that you are a harmless bunch of characters, and most likely a misunderstood bunch at that. But I also know that this type of behavior is usually frowned upon in the normal course of things. Have you ever thought of looking for a place where things don’t always follow such a normal course?”
The group of ne’er-do-wells liked the Ringmaster’s idea, and they responded very enthusiastically to his premise. At that point he said, “I want to show you a place that I think would be perfect for you. If you want to see it, just follow me!”
The Ringmaster led the group of ne’er-do-wells into his tent and introduced them to the second ring of his three-ring circus. As they entered the second ring and resumed their usual antics, they discovered that the Ringmaster’s brother was an expert at designing projectiles, crafting mallets, and inventing props like they had never imagined before. The group of ne’er-do-wells told the Ringmaster that they were now his clowns, and he told them that they were already creating a wonderful sense of amusement. Even as he turned to leave the second ring, the Ringmaster laughed at the thought of the gags and the stunts that the clowns had already perfected.
The Third Ring
A desolate silence was sweeping and swirling around outside the tent. Occasionally the dull rumble of pandemonium would roll in from beyond the horizon, echoing with the chaos that was swimming and soaring in every direction. The Ringmaster was discouraged to see that everything outside seemed so hopeless and dark. Doubts about whether his circus was worthwhile crept into his restless and wandering mind. His acrobats and his clowns noticed his distraction, and so they too started to feel a little distracted. They watched anxiously as the Ringmaster walked with slow, heavy steps to the third ring of his circus.
Once inside the third ring he dropped to one knee, lowered himself to a seated position, and then reclined slowly back onto the ground. He folded his hands across his chest and let his eyes wander slowly about the tent. As the Ringmaster remembered everything that he and his brother had done to create the trapeze and usher in the acrobats and wrangle the clowns, he started to feel as though his whole body might be floating ever so slightly above the ground. He found himself rolling gently down a hill, and he giggled as he turned and bounced and turned and bounced on the lush, grassy slope. He began imagining the clowns running ahead of him, racing like horses to keep from being steamrolled by their leader. He imagined the acrobats flying overhead and making nosedives directly at him, and then pulling up just before colliding with him. The acrobats would buzz the heads of the clowns, causing them to dive for cover and then flip quickly back onto their nimble feet. Gradually the clowns mustered the courage to ignore the acrobats buzzing overhead. So the acrobats began grasping the heads of the clowns firmly in their hands, and then as they soared back up into the clouds the necks of the befuddled clowns stretched out into long rubbery lines from their heads down to their bodies that were still running down the hill. As they reached the clouds, the acrobats would then release the clowns’ heads and watch as they were reeled back in to rejoin the bodies that continued to run as though they were oblivious to the plights of the exasperated clown heads that were plummeting back toward them.
The Ringmaster awoke suddenly from his dream to the sound of trumpets blaring throughout his tent. He jumped to his feet and began spinning in every direction, looking frantically for the source of this stupendous sound. But the trumpeting had stopped, and there were no trumpets to be found anywhere in the tent. He noticed his brother putting up torches throughout the tent, and he ran over to see if he knew what had happened.
“I was just having a dream like I’d never had before, and the last thing I remember hearing sounded like trumpets. Did you hear those trumpets just now?” said the Ringmaster.
“I did hear them, but I don’t think it came from any trumpets,” said the Ringmaster’s brother. “I’ve been hearing more and more music like that since I started setting up these torches.”
The Ringmaster began walking slowly from torch to torch, listening carefully for the sound of music. He said, “It feels almost like the music is running in circles around these torches, but the torches aren’t making any of the music.”
A faint feeling of recognition flashed across the Ringmaster’s face when he thought he saw a lion out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned there was no lion in sight. A torch flickered on the opposite side of him, and for a moment he thought he saw a great elephant illuminated in its flame. These flashes triggered the memory of familiar voices of trumpeting elephants, purring lions, whistling monkeys, and thundering horses. He recognized that this was the music he was hearing now. He turned to his brother and said, “This tent is full of invisible musicians. There’s an orchestra of ghostly animals performing a symphony of their very own.”
His brother nodded and said, “I think this band of ghosts is drawn to the flames of these torches. When I look at you standing in the center of the ring surrounded by all of these torches, I can see them dancing from flame to flame out of the corners of my eyes.”
The Ringmaster swayed confidently within the third ring of his circus as he began conducting his newly found band. The animals followed their new leader through the melodies and rhythms that they discovered together as they each performed their parts. The form of each animal became clearer as the parts that they performed became more unified.
The band continued to play on through the night. The animals no longer seemed to be ghosts at all. The acrobats continued to fill the first ring with wonder, and the clowns continued to fill the second ring with amusement. The Ringmaster was inspired to see what his circus was becoming, and he leaped out of the third ring as he ran to share some more new ideas with his brother.