The balls fall all around the place with bombing-raid strepitus. And not for the first time, today. Serenely, the Master Juggler combs his beard with ancient, slightly twisted fingers, looking into his pupil's eyes with piercing insight.
The Master’s eyes are deep blue, gentle, aged, small, and extraordinarily alive. There is no trace of aggression nor disapproval on his regard. Not ever. Yet, it is common for students to feel small, insignificant, as if swallowed by the Master's glance; such is the power and command that emanates from his presence.
Poor Bruno cannot hold it any longer and let go a frustrated sigh. He looks at the balls, still moving on the floor, finding their new balance. He feels fragile, unreliable, almost useless. Bruno frowns, and a “I will keep trying even if it takes forever” sign can be clearly read in his forefront...
- I have told you a million times, son… perhaps more: first get the idea, then the parts will come by themselves... What is the use of thinking in the balls when you cannot even see yourself juggling them? I can feel the tension in your neck just by listening to you, son. Watch that. Tension in your neck will ruin your life, and I do not mean just the juggling part…
- Yes, Master… You are right… Perhaps am I throwing the balls too high, Master?
- Oh, Bruno, those questions again…! Do not expect me to correct you at that level. Height, width... This will not matter, eventually… No analysis will take you there, no, no, no… Nothing like that. Just lovely, delightful, patterns, Bruno… Look at me.
Bruno motions towards the nearest ball with the intention of picking them all, but the Master stops him with a gentle gesture, drawn in the air without breaking his concentration.
Then the Master throws seven imaginary balls into the air, one by one. He barely moves, but Bruno can feel admiringly the path followed by each imaginary ball, the arch described by the old man’s eyes, tracking the orbit of each one, the arms and hand muscles cycling through a perfect pattern of motion and relaxation. Here it is, working as a living example: the often mentioned triple E: Essence, Economy, and Equilibrium. “Damn old man is freaking good, he’s the fucking best”, thinks Bruno. After his Master’s magisterial display, he feels his passion for juggling growing again.
- You see? Juggling seven or five or eleven balls is pretty much the same thing, son. You just need to stop thinking on the seven balls. Actually, what you need to stop is thinking, period. At least, stopping that kind of thinking. Please.
- But Master, what kind of... mind engagement do I need to juggle the seven balls?
- Mind engagement… goodness gracious me! Youth is full of wordy words, these days...! Listen, son: unless you have some sort of power to counteract the laws of gravity, a possibility that I seriously doubt, you just shut up for a while, do not dare thinking, and watch for the patterns... Please do not mess up with my proverbial serenity. Even we masters have our limits, son.
- Yes Master… Sorry, Master… I did'nt want to upset...
- … right now, you might be a reasonable juggler in the moon, at zero gravity, but here in the earth you are as lousy a juggler as they can get, my dear Bruno... And the moon talk, if you do not mind me saying, is beyond the point: being a juggler in the moon would be as profitable as delivering pizzas in the earth, do not you think?
- Yes master, you are always so right. You really help me to widen my horizons. I know, I keep forgetting... First the idea... I am sorry, this seven-ball routine is hard, Master... Please be forgiving... I am trying...
Bruno is very tall and too thin. His limbs are too long, his head comparatively small. This gives him an air slightly extraterrestrial, especially when he bends his body to interact with the small figure of his Master. He looks like a friendly visitor from Saturn.
- … Yes, you are trying, Bruno, and this is exactly the problem. Trying. Would you please do yourself a favor and stop trying? This is not about keeping seven balls in the air, but rather...
Bruno looks confused, and interrupts the Master's discourse.
- ... What? You say it is not? Forgive me again, dear Master, but now I am really confused... I thought I was learning a juggling routine here... And a deadly difficult, at that.
- ... and as long as you surrender your faith to that stupid idea, the balls will keep falling over your empty head until they break it open! Do not you see? Sometimes your stubborness allows me to contemplate the boundaries of my own patience. At that point I may start to throw the balls, aiming at your head. Fair warning.
- Sorry Master... So before I throw the balls I have to imagine myself doing the routine... am I right?
- Stop using that filthy word, routine! Juggling is about everything but routine! Focus on your senses, relax, be aware... That is about it.
- Yes, Master. Sorry, Master...
- Take care of your senses and the balls will take care of themselves...
- Master, I have heard that one before, but different, somehow. Ain' t that a victorian saying? Something like "Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves"? And I believe I read it in Alice in Wonderland, if I am not mistaken, but all messed up...
- Exactly! You may be in your way to become a terribly incompetent juggler, but at least you are well read. That is already something! There is hope, Bruno, there is hope... I am very happy you know Lewis Carroll... For the first time in months of training, you have surprised me. Congratulations.
- Thank you Master...! Your words fill me with motivation.
- But see how Carroll took and old conservative and assholic piece of Victorian bigotry, and used it to make a delightful joke with it. Carroll's version says "Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves". Instead a refrain to stimulate boring saving habits, he made a wise remark on how the whole idea must precede to the details... The idea here being that while you are worrying about the balls, they keep falling...You see...?
- Yes, Master. They keep falling, this is undeniable...
- ... You need more of the whole picture and less of the details, so to speak. In other words, I do not give a damn about the fucking balls, and pardon my french. OK. Now pick up the balls again.
The pupil picks up the seven coloured balls scattered around the room.
- Now, you have done this before... The fact that you did it with less balls is irrelevant. And before you ask, let me say that the initial secret is how you launch the balls into the air. Practice that, but avoid the tyranny of soulless repetition. Your juggling act will be an act of defiance and flexibility, son...
- Defiance, Master?
- Let me tell you something that helped me in my young years. It may come as a surprise to you, but the balls do not fall into the floor. They fall into the air, instead, and there they find their form. Come on, Bruno! You have enough juggling skill to do this. So instead preventing the balls from falling, just be there and allow them to spin around you, son.
- Like a flowing aura, Master?
- Well... yes! While they are around you, you make them flow. Practice now with five. It is just a trick to numb the part of your mind we do not need here. The difficulty is about the same.
Bruno seems confident now. The five balls leave his hands and find their paths like tiny planets. The Master observes his tall body with some satisfacion. For some precious moments, the day hours no longer drizzle, and the late afternoon is just a wild solar spot, a point, a moving aura. Then Bruno suspends the motions and picks the balls graciously in midflight.
The Master observes him. Without asking for permission, Bruno takes the two remaining balls from the floor, and launch them all into the air, like words, seven, one by one, with a beautiful cadence. Soon after, they all orbit in harmonious consonance, changing their patterns like the waters of a fountain in a festive day.
It is a true stellar dance, a quiet, serene rebellion against physics. A gracious subatomic spinning particle of a much larger world.
"It is a feel, then!". The thought crosses Bruno's mind, wordlessly. He laughs loudly, and just then, a letany of words jump from Bruno's mouth, and start dancing together with the planets, while he juggles effortlessly:
"...the drill, the mill, the will, the skill, the prill, the frill, the swill, the thrill, the chill..."
... then STILL.