Three Rings

Katie and I went to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus last weekend and I was reminded of why they call it a three-ring circus.

The idea is to have three rings of simultaneous action. The fire-breathers in ring one, the human cannonball in ring three and the lion-tamer stealing the show in the center ring.

The whole point is that there’s always more going on than your eyes can follow. As one act wraps up, you shift your eyes to another ring and don’t even notice the change. The sights and sounds (and maybe smells) of the circus overwhelm you.

When you look for it, you’ll start to notice these three rings in more than just the circus. It’s all over entertainment, the news, and even our government.

You’ll see it during a concert or church service when the live performer is center stage, video angles are switching on the screens, and lyrics are following along. A three-ring circus.

You’ll see it in news programs when the anchor is in the top two thirds of the screen, a graphic is below him or her, and a “news ticker” scrolls at the bottom. A three-ring circus.

You’ll see it in the American political system. Executive, legislative, and judicial branches all performing separate acts, all at once. A three-ring circus.

And you’ll probably see it in your own life. At work, answering emails, preparing for a presentation, and meeting Friday’s deadline all vie for your attention. At home you face the same dilemma: cooking, cleaning, and yard work all need to be done at the same time. It often feels like chaos: A three-ring circus.

With practice, we can start to pick out the showstoppers from the circus clowns in each area.


Extra Credit