LAST WEEK I did something I hadn’t done since I was 19, I went to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. A lot has changed since the last time I went to the circus back in the early 90s but the core of the circus is always the same: Clowns, overpriced snow cones, and a ringmaster in a long sequined coat to sing and dance you through what’s happening. Like my father, I’m a bit of a nature nut so more than anything I was looking forward to seeing the big cats in the center ring, there’s something about lions and tigers that bring out the little kid in me. However when the spotlight hit the cage in the middle of the Philips Arena floor something didn’t quite seem right, there were big cats there sure enough but they looked less like the majestic and regal creatures they are and they looked more like, well, big furry people metaphors. Let me explain…
I don’t speak lion, or tiger for that matter, they don’t sell that package in Rosetta Stone. I can, however, tell you without shadow of a doubt that the four tigers, four lionesses, and one great big male lion had some feelings of disdain for Alexander the circus lion tamer, who with gentle prodding and training over the course of a few months, or years dependent on how long it takes to train a lion or tiger, had reduced these stalkers of the wild into oversized domesticated house cats who sit up on their hind legs for applause from strangers. It was like the cats knew that they were greater than what they had been reduced to, something in their big cat DNA was telling them that they should be out in an open plain someplace stalking an antelope but when the whip was cracked they jumped and pranced like Westminster Dog Show participants. Then it would seem to click again for the one of the cats and it would get a glimpse of itself laying wait in tall grass waiting for the perfect moment to leap out and turn a sleek gazelle into lunch and feeling that power coursing through its blood the lion or tiger would roar menacingly at this Alexander person holding the whip and yelling out commands to the amusement of the paying customers; bearing its teeth, the big cat would protest loudly as if to honor his big cat ancestors. But while the cat was roaring it was steadily bouncing on its hind legs while the circus band played nearby. One tiger sat boldly while the other cats “stood” and bounced to unfamiliar music, he looked as if to say “I know who I am and I ain’t doing that craziness.” Alexander approached the tiger and addressed it sternly and the tiger lunged a bit and took a bit of a swipe at him, it roared defiantly and sent an icy glare towards the man in the cage with him, but all of a sudden it was as if the tiger remembered that it needed to eat later and fell in line like the others, spirit broken and took to its hind legs and bounced with the others; and the audience cheered and Alexander took the credit.
Being borderline addicted to Facebook as I am I know that there are several in my circle that are less than enamored with their places of employment. That disenchantment, however, never keeps a person from getting up in the morning and dragging their tails into the office though because that job is the means to an end. The mortgage, the car note, putting the kids in better schools, and keeping the lights on seem to always get people out of bed when that alarm sounds in the morning regardless of how they feel about the work, the co-workers, or the annoying supervisor. Several people sit in cubicles, at desks, or in situations that minimize their worth. We jump into life at 20 or 21 years old and we’re vibrant, and young, and full of promise and capabilities and then a good number of us years later find ourselves in places that look nothing like we’d planned when we first started out, very much like a lion meant for wide open plains finding itself in a cage bouncing on its hind legs. And we “roar” in protest, oh do we roar!! We take to our Twitter and Facebook pages and lament our situations, we sit in our cubicles and talk about everything that is wrong and that “we ‘ain’t gonna take it anymore”, we may even get bold enough to have a word or two, a verbal swipe if you will, with a superior at the office but ultimately when we hear the whip of responsibility – those bills that need to be paid, that mortgage for the roof over your head, that note for that car you just bought – we have to suck it up and make it work, we have to do our own little circus dance to music that we don’t like because that place, like it or not, is our means to an end. We bounce like circus lions in spite of our feelings.
But my Grandfather told me something long ago – “as long as we’re dwelling on this side of the ground it’s not too late.” Unlike a circus lion in a cage, we have no restraints but ourselves and, challenging as it can be sometimes, we have the abilities to better our circumstances, to do more than just dance to someone else’s music. Our imaginations and our possibilities are limitless; I’m foolish enough to believe that what we dream for ourselves we can create for ourselves. We may have to put up with someone else’s song for a minute but while doing so we should never stop working on the tune of our own destiny as that’s the one we’re meant to dance to. Let’s make our roars worth something, shall we?
~thanks for reading
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