I took my little brother Eli to the circus yesterday. Well, actually, he used his Christmas money to buy the tickets, and I paid for the gas to get there and dinner, so I guess he took me. Anyways. We went to the circus, and for the most part it was absolutely incredible; seeing the amazing feats, stunts and tricks that humans can do when they put their sweat, blood, tears and lots of practice behind it was thrilling, to say the least! But a certain aspect of the circus made me really sad. Yep, you probably could have guessed it: the animals, and most specifically the bigger, not-normally-domestic ones.
Now, I am no animal rights activist, and I am not going to rant about mistreatment of circus animals when I know nothing about that. What bothered me was something I saw in their eyes. It’s pretty “normal” for me to see a dog jumping around and acting silly, and I’ve seen plenty of horses running around in circles. So, those animals didn’t bother me so much. Even the llamas were more entertaining than not because I was like, “Wow. I didn’t even know a llama could run!” and I can’t even picture a llama in it’s “natural habitat”, so whatever I saw just seemed natural to me. I could justify those animals doing silly tricks to amaze me. They are already domestic in my mind. But the elephants and tigers were a different story.
Tigers are such majestic creatures! And they are enormous! I watched as the trainer coaxed the tigers to do various different tricks, within the enclosed steel cage that dropped from the ceiling. There was a certain sadness in the tigers’ eyes. I think the word might be “tamed”. It seemed, no matter how long they have been in captivity, there is something deep within their soul that tells them that something is not right about this picture, that they are meant for something so much greater. I watched as the trainer used tiny little pieces of meat to reward them for the tricks, and to bribe them to go where he wanted them to, as they skipped over the biggest piece of meat in the cage: the trainer. It was heartbreaking for me to see these glorious creatures acting in such tame and contrived ways.
And then there were the elephants; one of the biggest creatures to stomp around on modern-day earth! Their presence demands respect. And I believe elephants are above the intelligence of some people, which made it even sadder to see them led around the arena by a man with a little stick, telling them to sit, and spin, and dance to the music. They were cute, and endearing, but their eyes spoke to me. Not necessarily of abuse, or maltreatment or anything like that. I didn’t read all that. But merely a sadness of being broken, and forced to to something that was below the fullness of their existence, trained by a tiny little man (in comparison to them) with a stick, all for the entertainment and enjoyment of people. I found it difficult to enjoy the elephants in that context.
And then I got to thinking…I’ve seen that look before in the eyes of humans. Like, that man who works a nine-to-five that he does not enjoy, daily confined to a tiny little cubicle, just to put bread on the table and to “get by”. He was made for greater things, but society has broken him, trained him, and told him not to live wild. He has turned his wants into needs and therefore has to make a certain amount of money to be able to afford the lifestyle he has created for himself. He has the stuff, but it has not made him happy the way he thought it would; and new stuff just keeps coming out all the time and he can never catch up.
He’s not happy. He wants so much more, and his soul tells him, if only on a subconscious level, that the desires of his heart have very little to do with “stuff”, and more to do with purpose. He’s told, “Chasing your dreams is too crazy, wild, and out there! We should be more docile, tame, and domestic.” Maybe he dreams of being a stunt man, or a writer, or a sports commentator, or a circus clown, but somewhere along the way, someone (if not many) told him that his dreams were too wild, that he needed to tone it down, and be more practical.
We are so often not all that different to those circus animals. We are majestic, glorious creatures meant to live in the fulness of our purpose and being, but we have been captured by another form of existence. Our cages are the materialistic lifestyles we desire, and our trainer is a capitalistic society, always holding that bait above our heads. We all too often settle for the little pieces of meat (in the form of conformity and complacency) when we were were made to be wild, to go after the big hunk of meat, following the deepest desires of our hearts and seeking happiness that way, instead of seeking happiness through more “things”. Material wealth and things will never quench our desire to be happy and fulfilled, like living in the fullness of who we are, most definitely, will do. But when we settle for less, convinced that we need that trainer to tell us who and how to be, we will remain in captivity. We will remain caged. And it will show in our eyes. I want to break free. I want to be wild.