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Amazing Feats

Just
when I thought I’d lived my life without becoming a juggler, along
comes Stuart Ashman’s The Great Juggling Kit, a wonderful high
school graduation gift for our teenage daughter, Ravy. She’s now
juggling college chemistry, English, marching band, boyfriends,
judo, and rugby.

Almost-90-year-old "Uncle
Jimmy" Harvey, who loves to play the circus clown and perform
all kinds of tricks and sleights of hand, is the giver of the
magic gift.

The kit’s 64-page book,
published by Barnes & Noble, is loaded with pictures of young
and over-the-hillers performing a skill as olden as medieval time.

At first glance the three
balls-each colored blue, green, red, and yellow-look like hardly
more than colorful worry stones-pleasant to look at, relaxing to
squeeze, and nice to touch lightly, thereby feeling less stressed.

Clutching and releasing the
balls, keeping them constantly in motion, requires unbroken
concentration. (Professional jugglers can manage five balls-11 is
the world record.) Up until now, I was childish enough to think
that jugglers were born with this ability. It didn’t occur to me
that it’s learned beginning with the fundamentals- the "jugglespace,"
"cascade," "top of the arc," "the
snatch," "chop," "shower," and "the
Statue of Liberty." Juggling has its own vocabulary and
there’s not enough space here to explain each meaning.

One thing I’ve noticed is that
jugglers are almost always smiling, which causes others to lose
frowns. Being a good juggler is handy when times are rough and
traveling with the circus or college crowd is one of the few acts
in or out of town.

Here’s a game plan idea for
teenagers and senior citizens: juggling is what we do every
day-the big difference is deciding what oranges to toss and catch
and what lemons to forget about right from the git-go.

It doesn’t do much good to
juggle indecision, procrastination, and down-and-out laziness.
Does it? Better to juggle the reading of three good books than
three bad books. Better to juggle the watching of three good
television programs instead of three bad television programs.
Makes more sense to juggle time to accommodate three interesting
people rather than wasting time bowing and scraping for three
people who hinder more than they help. Right?

The Great Juggling Kit
has taught me to begin with one thing, build up to two, and then
move on to three things. Who knows? Maybe I can learn to do four
or five things at the same time: have a career, family, and
spiritual life. Or I could reverse the order. Compensate. Maybe
work in a hobby. Build a circle of friendships. Volunteer. Be true
to myself. A true multi-tasker. It’s the flow that matters. Smooth
flow. Well-timed release, catch, release, catch. Coordination.

What applies to the sighted,
works for the visually challenged. I have a friend, Michael, blind
from birth, who teaches music, mimics other voices, and practices
free throws in his backyard. Another friend, Bonnie, has no arms
but drives a car with her feet, waves goodbye with her toes, and
wears a watch on her ankle. Another friend, Willie, has no legs
but drives a car with his hands and, pushing his wheelchair loaded
with fishing equipment, walks on his knees to the edge of a lake.
These three juggle better than I ever will.

There’s an International
Jugglers Association, a magazine called Juggle, an Encyclopedia
of Ball Juggling
, and a Compendium of Club Juggling.
There’s even something called siteswap on the Internet, where
jugglers swap complex patterns.

I tend toward seeing the
practical in just about everything. If it will cause me to relax,
smile, and move smoothly through another day without harm to
myself and others, then I’m the happiest clown on the face of this
old earth-spinning through a universe of juggling stars.

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