It’s a catchy tune, one that loops round and round inside our heads. The announcer takes center ring, resplendent under a spotlight in top hat and tails. “LADIEZZZ AND GENTLEMEN! BOYS AND GIRLS OF ALL AGES! WELCOME TO THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!
And indeed it is. Here comes the parade of animals, prancing horses, muzzled bears, tigers roaring in their cages on wheels. Here come the elephants in pink tutus, performing night after night to that same inescapable rhythm which now marches into our ears.
There’s exhilaration tumbling inside us as the great beasts circle center ring. We have tamed them; they obey our commands and kneel before us. We oooo and aahh and clap at these exotic creatures from far-off places. We laugh at the clowns and at ourselves. Each and every one of us wants to run away and join the circus, relief from our humdrum lives.
When we exit the canvas tent our imaginations deflate a little, but our wish to master the world does not. We go home and try to teach new tricks to cats curled in our armchairs.
Buddhists believe a person would do well to model themselves after the elephant. Not the ones in pink tutus circling and circling to the same song, for they are most like us, made over in our own image. We should instead metamorphose into great gray patient beings standing naked in our own skins under the stars and the sun. Perhaps then we could rejoin the world of fellow beings, relearn ancient rhythms. Perhaps then we would know what they know.