I was going to rewrite an old essay I wrote on beauty and juggling. I was planning on shortening it and just picking out the pieces I still like, but I haven't been able to get motivated. Anyway, I figured I would just put the whole thing here, so I don't have to think about editing it anymore. Click Read More to read the whole essay.
Not How Many, Just How
When examining beauty, the most logical place seems to be the arts. However, juggling is rarely considered a part of the arts. In fact, juggling is rarely thought of at all. To prove this, I have asked various people who is the best or their personal favorite juggler. Most people can not even name one famous juggler. However, most anyone can name a famous singer, actor, or dancer. What makes these people more worthy of our attention than jugglers?
Juggling and dancing appear to be similar. In fact, I have a routine where I do a juggling Cha-Cha Slide. When I introduce this act, I usually explain the thought process used to create it. I thought to myself that juggling is basically just like dancing. Dancers can either move one leg, both legs, or neither, and I can throw with one hand, both hands, or neither. So I changed, “one, two, cha, cha, cha,” into “throw, throw, snatch, snatch, snatch.” However, juggling is not really dancing with your hands. Dance is an art that is immensely popular, and juggling is a trick reserved for the circus. The Orchesis dance tryouts at school draw hundreds of people to tryout, and there are only ten or so jugglers in the school. Michael Flatley is the Lord of the Dance, and Anthony Gatto is some guy you’ve never heard of. Clearly there is more of a difference between juggling and dance than throwing props. If that was it, then they would both be considered arts.
What gives the fine arts their appeal? I would say it is because they show people beauty. Beauty is a quality that gives pleasure to the senses. It is something beyond functionality. A good house is built to keep me warm, but a beautiful house is built in a way that pleases my senses while keeping me warm. That is the appeal of art; it performs its function while pleasing our senses. Jugglers often forget to think about this, leading to juggling being thought of as less than an art. Juggling’s small following is due to its lack of beauty, but why is juggling less beautiful than the arts?
This is a result of the mindset that people, including jugglers, have about juggling. When I tell people I am a juggler, the first question I am usually asked is, “How many balls can you juggle?” This is the juggling mindset; learn how to do an amazing feat. The doing is what matters, not how you do it. If I said I was a singer, most people would not initially ask me, “What is the highest note you can hit?” Singing is about how you sing - not just performing some feat. Beauty is found in the way things are done. Both jugglers and dancers do three hundred and sixty degree spins, but it is very different in each. In juggling, the only focus is spinning all the way around before the balls come down. Spinning twice is clearly better than spinning once, so spin as fast as possible. In contrast, dancers do pirouettes in various ways. A ballet may feature pirouettes done very slowly with one leg up at an angle, but a tap dancer may spin around while moving his feet so fast they are hard to follow. Jugglers need to be focused on how they perform in addition to what they perform.
One of the people I asked to name a famous juggler named Chris Bliss. Chris Bliss is primarily a comedian, but he does a juggling act to “Abby Road” at the end of his routine. A video of this act was put on the Internet and has become quite popular. None of the individual tricks he does are that amazing. However, what makes this performance so enjoyable is his energy and the way he transitions from trick to trick. Another famous juggler is Jason Garfield. He is clearly a more technically proficient juggler than Chris Bliss. He can juggle ten balls. However, Chris Bliss is more famous. Jason Garfield became irritated at this. In time, he got so tired of people sending him the link to the Chris Bliss video; he decided to redo the routine. Using five balls, he did the same act that Chris Bliss did with three. This is technically stunning; however it also makes it obvious why the Chris Bliss clip was so popular. When Jason Garfield is juggling, he never really looks like he is having fun. Some of the time he even looks bored. What made Chris Bliss’s juggling so appealing to people was not what he did but how he did it.
There truly is a beauty in juggling. Although it is sometimes hard to see this beauty in the ranks of the world’s best jugglers, it is more visible in amateurs. The basic three ball cascade is something very simple, yet millions of people have been fascinated by it and have worked on countless variations. Almost everybody who learns to juggle learns from one of their friends instead of being inspired by a great juggler. The great jugglers seek to show their great accomplishments and wind up leaving people thinking they could never do that. Amateur jugglers on the other hand, often have a strange urge to teach as many people to juggle as possible. This is where the beauty of juggling truly lies - a simple little three ball pattern bringing people together. Under normal circumstances, I am not overly outgoing or quick to meet people; I have even been compared to Bashful the Dwarf. However, as my alter ego “Kevin the Juggler,” I have no problems meeting new people. Often when I’m with children I really don’t know how to interact with them. If I have my bag of tennis balls, I can easily connect with them. Why do they want to learn to juggle, and why is it exciting for me when they succeed? My answer is there is a beauty to juggling that is both simple and ornate enough to fill people of all ages with wonder. Even if the top tier jugglers forget about beauty in their acts, the natural beauty of juggling will be seen and spread by the beginning jugglers.
That is part of what beauty is all about, filling people with wonder. This aspect of beauty is not exclusive to juggling. This is also what makes nature beautiful; it makes us wonder at the beauty of God. Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that you take care of him.” David, the author of this Psalm, saw the glory of God in the beauty of the starry heavens, and he was in awe. Furthermore, he is amazed that God is concerned with man, and thanks God for his role on earth. To a lesser extent this is what juggling offers us. It shows us the amazing gift of motion that God has given us. Juggling shows off the remarkable consistency of gravity, and the fluid motion of the balls. In addition to that, it also offers us a chance to take part in the spectacle. Moreover, juggling gives us a chance to show others its beauty. Beauty, whether in juggling, art, or nature, can show us a deeper beauty which is part of God’s character. It also inspires us to join with others to spread beauty.
It turns out that beauty is indeed important. We should strive to do more than just get the job done; we should do it in a beautiful way. Beauty is important in juggling because it can show us the glory of God and can make us thankful to be part of his beautiful creation.