We took our twins to the circus for their seventh birthday. It was all of our first time at a real Barnum and Bailey “Greatest Show on Earth” experience. I was excited. We were going to introduce the boys to the magic and mystery of humans conquering gravity, fear and doing the impossible. They were going to gain a love and awareness of animals. They were going to giggle at these animals doing tricks. Tigers sitting on chairs, waiting to amaze us with how domesticated they could be. Poodles dancing with each other. Horses twirling in sync. Elephants…
Yeah. The elephants.
Here’s where the spell was broken for me.
As the dozen or so large gray bodies filled the arena, a wave of sadness hit me. It hit me so hard, I was suddenly blinking back tears. Sorrow. That’s what I was feeling and then panic, because I had no idea where it was coming from or how I was going to keep from scaring the kids around me by breaking down. I held my breath and concentrated on the steel scaffolding and lights above me. When I got the tears under control, I worked on breathing through the suffocating, oppressive emotion. I told myself to feel it and let it go because this is what I’ve been practicing.
It helped. It helped me look at the elephants again. We were in the front, so I could see right into one big brown eye. I made myself keep looking. Made myself see. See the gentle soul within that massive body. My heart broke for him. I promised him and myself that I would research their living conditions. That if there was something I could do to change their lot in life, I would do it.
I enjoyed other parts of the circus. Watching the humans, who had a choice, perform mind-boggling acts of strength and grace. I enjoyed the boys’ wide-eyed innocence as they watched the daring tight-rope walkers, the clown on ten foot stilts, a girl shot out of a cannon and the acrobatics that rivaled the Olympics.
And I’m glad that I experienced something else. I’m not quite sure what it was, really. I’m not even saying the elephants don’t live a great life full of peanuts and massages. But the pain was real and it wasn’t mine. Until that night.
“Having no idea is the doorway to realization.” Karen Maezen Miller
I’ve only begun to look into their story so I can’t claim to know any facts. But if this is something that speaks to you and you’d like to help you can sign this petition. I don’t know if it will make any difference but it’s a step through the door.
How do you feel about animals in the circus? Have you ever experienced anything like this? Please share.