by Bill Giduz, editor
Juggler’s World Magazine, Summer 1997, Special Golden Anniversary Issue
The players come and go, but the play goes on forever...
One generally comes to juggling and most other pursuits egocentrically. "Wow! Look what I can do!" With maturity, you come to admire and appreciate more experienced practitioners, learn from them and share your new-found art with others.
Deeper understanding comes as you realize that even those around you, as fabulous as they are, are only today's fabulous jugglers. The broader perspective is clarified through deeper investigation, from talking to those who have a link with the past, from reading and trying to make sense of contradictory information and sketchy reports.
Look far behind you to those pictures on the walls of the Beni Hasan tombs in Egypt . That means juggling began with the Egyptians around 2,000 B.C., then, right?! Maybe not. Realize that those pictures represent only one moment in time when someone had a pen and a reason to draw a juggler. That moment may have not arrived until the far end of several previous eras of juggling. No one can say when it started, and there will likely be no end.
Every moment we juggle is a beginning, a commencement in endless time. We juggle today, but they juggled yesterday, and they will juggle for all tomorrows. The venues change, the motivations change, the circumstances change and the props change, but the simple urge to manipulate objects seems to be wired into human genes.
For many of us, it's absolutely compelling. It's not an ability from birth, but a skill that must be unlocked and nurtured through effort and will. I remember precisely the instant when, standing in my front yard, I first cascaded three balls. It was a remarkable, physical feeling, akin only to discovering my balance on a bicycle. Somehow it lay dormant within me for more than 25 years, then burst into my arms with joyful release. Very few other moments mark my life so clearly.
After "ego", "maturity" and "understanding" finally comes "belonging." No one will tell you you're there, but you will know it. You recognize your place as a link in an almost endless chain of people who have taken objects in hand and learned to control their flight and fall. Roles are reversed, and what's important becomes not yourself, but the art itself! The juggler becomes servant to the art, and is accepts the highest challenge.
Servants are vehicles for their cause, placing its value above their physical comfort and material well-being. Their reward is seldom wealth, but always strength of character and self-respect, a soul full of pride and a heart full of humility - proud because of all that's been learned, and humbled from the realization that the art's possibilities are infinite, while the human body is not.
This anniversary issue tells the story of many such servants. Their sweat, patience, enthusiasm and "joie de juggle" have enriched and strengthened their art. Their creativity in fashioning routines gives others hope that they, too, may find creativity within. The stories we tell and retell about their lives and feats bonds us.
It's no different for an organization than for an individual. For 50 years now the IJA has sought to serve the art by bringing together jugglers to celebrate and explore it. Partly through its efforts, more people juggle today than ever before and the IJA takes tremendous pride in that.
But success has created even greater challenges. Rather than serving a small fraternity of professional friends, the IJA must in its next half-century find ways to serve an art shared now by un-numerable legions of people worldwide in expressions that range from casual to messianic. The challenges, like juggling itself, are equally technical and artistic in nature.
So keep that in mind. But more importantly, pause for a moment to say "thanks" to those who have worked through the IJA in its first 50 years to serve juggling. Read their stories and gain inspiration and insight to help the organization continue to serve. The highest honor any of us can pay the art of juggling is a personal commitment to maintain the merry cascade while it is entrusted to our hands.