Taming the Juggling Balls

As of November 7, 2022 it has been 22 days since I purchased the Learn to Juggle kit from Barnes and Noble. So far, my learning experience reminds me of a story by Mark Twain, “Taming the Bicycle,” which was published posthumously—obviously after he succumbed from his injuries in the attempt to ride the high-wheeled bicycle in the early 1880s.

Just kidding of course, about his death from the bicycle riding adventure. He did mention using about a barrel of something called Pond’s Extract, which was a liniment for scrapes and other wounds.

Twain was writing about learning something new—a thing all of us are called on to do many times in our lives. He didn’t try to learn to ride the bicycle until he was over 50 years old.

I didn’t try to learn how to juggle until was well past my mid-sixties. How do you account for decisions to embark on new hobbies, adventures, and other nonsense at an age when most people would be content vegetating on the porch or in front of the TV?

I just answered the question, in case you didn’t notice.

Anyway, I am making some progress as juggling, although it’s uneven. It’s hard to believe, but sometimes I think I juggle better as I wander around. I think it might be because there is a natural tendency to throw the balls away from you. That way, I look more adept simply because I’m making a frequently observed beginner’s mistake. But I seem to be steadier even when I walk backward a few paces.

 When I stand firmly in one place and attempt to juggle, I can often barely make it past half a dozen throws. Wandering a little, I have made thirty throws.

But then, randomly, the opposite occurs and the theory fails.

Counting the number of each throw seems to help—occasionally. I also notice that unscheduled, short practice episodes for 10 minutes or less work better than struggling along for a half hour or so at set times.

I don’t dread the practice sessions; in fact, I have a sort of itch to juggle at various times during the day. Sometimes I believe I do it to help me collect my thoughts, to keep my hands occupied, or just to pass the time.

I remember learning to ride the bicycle for the first time when I was a kid. I fell down a lot, just like Twain did—until I got the hang of it. Maybe juggling will turn out to be the same.

But I won’t need Pond’s Extract for juggling mistakes—as long as I don’t try juggling while climbing or descending stairs.

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