She’s pulled higher and higher into the air, the only thing supporting her, a firm grip on the rope. We look up, mesmerized, enthralled. Then she starts to swing. Back. And forth. Back. And forth. Higher and higher until with each swing her head is horizontal to her feet. Looking up. Looking down. With each swing her features sway in and out of focus; with each swing the concentration is more intensely etched in her face; with each swing the gaudy vaudeville costume becomes less frivolous and insanely, horrifyingly, spellbinding.
And then she jumps.
Double-tuck, double-layout half-in, half-out with a 360 degree twist, smiling as she catches the rope.
And before we have a chance to catch our collective breath she does it again.
Double-tuck, double-layout half-in, half-out with a 360 degree twist.
This time, she catches the rope with her ankle.
And then laugh, because I feel foolish.
And then cry, because I’m so moved by what I’ve just seen.
And it’s not just the show. It’s not just the music and the costumes and the makeup and the drama of it all. It’s the human spirit that affects me so.
When I was growing up my father told me I had a heart of stone because I never cried. That’s not true. I’m hugely impressionable. As I get older I’ve been better able to recognise the things that move me. They aren’t always the obvious ones like death, or a broken romance, or a failed career. What strangles my voice and blurs my vision is quite simply, pure human achievement.
Like the girl on the rope. Or the addict who stays clean, or the mother who raises a disabled child.
These are the people who move me.
I’m impressed by their courage and their willingness to show up day after day after day, by their dedication and commitment to the sweat of the task at hand. This touches me far more than talent. Of course that’s impressive too, but competence is no match for tenacity and grit and a striving for something great.
And what’s amazing is we all have it, this ability to achieve. You and me too. It takes recognition of the connection, staying humble and doing the work.
The reward, without doubt, is in the work.
This post is dedicated to the cast of the Zip Zap Circus. Ordinary children doing extraordinary things.