Juggling—it’s what many people feel they’re doing every day. Round and round go those balls: Job, Family, Cat-to-the-vet, Clean-the-house, Make-a-meal, Get-the-car-a-WOF, Finish-an-assignment, Cut-the-lawn, Grandma’s birthday, Christmas. So many people spend all day juggling, most with a gnawing sense of impending disaster. It’s so difficult to keep those balls in the air. No wonder people get tired; no wonder people occasionally drop the lot.
But see the busker at the Farmer’s Market standing serene and smiling in the crowd, juggling plastic ducks, a toilet plunger balanced on his chin. He doesn’t look tired at all. In fact, he’s smiling. He’s actually enjoying himself. When, inevitably, he occasionally drops a duck, he only laughs. He picks it up and starts again. He’s having fun. Remember fun? Jay the Juggler does.
As a child, Jay Glubb was uncomfortable playing the competitive team sports which formed the mainstay of the NZ school sports curriculum. Discovering juggling as a young man was a liberation. With juggling, the focus is not on win-lose competition, but on self-mastery. The skills can be practiced anywhere, in solitude or in a group, in private or in public. Juggling is a skill that promotes connection on many levels. The practitioner’s mind and body—the will, the eye, the hands—must work harmoniously. And since juggling in a public space always draws an audience, connections are also made with other people. Each person who pauses to watch also becomes part of the act. And jugglers attract other jugglers. Jay says:
You don’t compete with another juggler. They’re good too, so the experience expands.”
Jay enjoys teaching children to juggle, using scarves initially because they float slowly through the air and are easy to catch. A teaching session is full of laughter, but as the students engage with the task the room becomes quieter. What are they learning? Hand-eye co-ordination, concentration, patience, self-forgiveness, balance and strength. How to be alone, but also how to make friends through a shared interest, and how to have fun. How to be silent, but also how to converse with friends and how to perform for an audience. How to persevere. Skills to last a lifetime, skills to keep a person calm and centered when life starts piling on the tasks and deadlines.
Jay talks of finding a kind of freedom in juggling. I’m only a small-time juggler myself (I pick up 3 balls for a quick play when I get stumped writing), but I know what he means. Real juggling is a fantastic way to dislodge the stuck or overwrought thinking brain. With my actual juggling balls in my actual hands, I have to drop that whirling mental list of things-to-do.
Sue Wootton is co-editor of Corpus.