The Lion Tamer

Photo Credit: Andres Kudacki for Time

Photo Credit: Andres Kudacki for Time

Time magazine recently ran a piece on all the factors that contributed to the closing of Ringling Brothers Circus.  Not the least of which has been the rise of a different kind of circus:Cirque de Soleil. While I've been fascinated with the ascent of Cirque, I am haunted by a photo that accompanied the Time magazine story--a photo of the empty Ringling Bros circus circle with the lion tamer and lion together in what could only be described as an embrace. A last embrace.

The photo captured such a sense of loss, of grief. Even for me who loves Cirque and has never been to the old kind of circus.  Nor was tempted to go.

Yet that photo stays with me.

It reminds me that when we are dazzled by the beauty of something new, it's easy to overlook the sadness of saying goodbye to what was. Particularly the grief being felt by those who supported what was. Who were a part of that way of life.

At some point the old circus might have been closed because of concerns about animal welfare. It never came to that.  It simply fell to the wayside of our life, as our way of life changed. And as what began as street acrobatics morphed into a performance tradition with a larger and larger following.

It leaves me with these questions,

  • Where in life have I not noticed the loss that comes with progress, improvement, with the new
  • Where in life have I felt as if I am caught in some back water as the world moves on?
  • What does the picture of the lion and his tamer ask of me?

Cirque du Soleil

By Judy Brown

When I grew up
The circus
Had the animals
In cages,
The elephants
In lines.

Then even as that scene
Began to trouble me,
Emerged within our lives
A circus of a different kind:
No animals at all,
But humans with trapezes,
Trampolines and bicycles.
Instead of ropes and whips,
There were long flowing sheets
Of ruby-colored silk

From which the
Acrobats could swing.

What saved the animals?

Was it our seeing
What we’d done to them
And feeling bad?
Or was it
That the beauty
Of a way
Of doing “circus”
So entirely new,
Swept us away,
And saved us from ourselves,
And saved the elephants
And tigers too?

Judy Sorum Brown, September 26, 2000, Dearborn, Michigan.

With  a note of appreciation to the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, green architect

Bill McDonough, ecological economist Herman Daly, Karl-Henrik Robert of Sweden’s

Natural Step, Betsy Taylor of the Center for a New American Dream, and legions of

leaders everywhere who are helping us leave behind destructive practices by helping

us discover a way of life more satisfying and beautiful than the one to which we have

stubbornly and fearfully clung.

As displayed on and from  

The Art and Spirit of Leadership   Judy Brown  Trafford Press 2012