The Juggler’s Lament

Once upon a time in the faraway land of Lancelot, there lived a citizenry who, for reasons we may never fully understand, regarded juggling to be among the highest forms of human self-expression.

Conversations around the dinner table were replete with references to the latest feats of renowned jugglers. Some might savor the behind-the-back passes of Jake the Juggler, while others preferred the under-the-leg toss of Jane the Juggler. Old timers might reminisce about the exploits of the great Jim the Juggler who once kept the prodigious quantity of twenty-balls aloft for seven minutes, or even Jocelyn the Juggler who had once juggled eleven hours without a drop.

Juggling was a difficult profession requiring endless practice and selfless devotion to keep the audiences entertained, but many were the parents who pushed their children toward juggling for the simple privilege of one day being able to say, “My child is in the Juggler’s Guild.”

It was a simple and happy time.

So revered were jugglers that the citizens of Lancelot petitioned to have jugglers be regarded as public servants with a salary and a pension.

This is when politicians and bureaucrats became involved. They resolved to get the public its money’s worth. The legislature named a Director of Juggler Assessment and Certification who had lasted less than a year in the trade.

And so it came to pass that people who had never kept so much as two balls aloft at one time were charged with the licensing and certification of jugglers. First, these public servants designed a test. The testers would launch the contents of six buckets filled with three-dozen balls to prospective jugglers standing in rooms with very low ceilings. In each bucket the balls varied dramatically in dimension and weight.

Some were hollow; some were filled with sand; still others were filled with lead. The jugglers were expected to keep all the balls flying through the air in nearly identical arcs.

Some of the balls were quite fragile. The juggler was expected to spot those balls first and keep them from breaking.

Some of the balls had barbs and hooks that could prick painfully. The juggler was expected to manipulate them without injury.

It did not matter that no juggler, past or present, had ever successfully kept so many objects in the air.

Points were mercilessly subtracted for every ball and drop of blood that hit the floor.

It was suddenly very difficult to become a juggler.

Next came the inevitable reports decrying the incompetency of the nation’s jugglers. The president of Lancelot held a seminar to study the juggling crisis. Not one juggler was invited to participate.

When the Juggler’s Guild came forward to suggest that perhaps they were best qualified to establish parameters for accepted practice and entry into their organization, they were told that the task was far too important to be left to a bunch of jugglers.

The Bureau of Licensing and Certification designed a special velcro suit with webbing under the arms and between the fingers that all jugglers were required to wear. Fewer balls hit the ground now, but it did not make for very compelling juggling as most of the time jugglers were forced to chase the better part of three-dozen balls that were rolling around on the floor.

Jugglers had been reduced to a sorrowful state of affairs. It was not long before the crowds dwindled. Those that remained either heckled or mercilessly mocked the jugglers. Taxpayers even began to begrudge jugglers the pittance they earned in salary and pension.

Not long after that, it became difficult to find anyone who wanted the job of juggler, and very rightfully so.

Thank goodness times have changed. Thank goodness our nation is not engaged in the torture and torment of simple entertainers. Thank goodness we no longer perpetrate such crimes on our jugglers.

No, that has become the fate of our teachers…

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