Not My Circus?

This morning, on fellow blogger Stef’s Daily Delights, I encountered this Polish proverb: Not my circus, not my monkeys!

Oft-quoted Polish Proverb Well! I promptly decided to adopt the proverb as my mantra-of-the-day. Enough of the silliness, enough of the small stuff (I thought we agreed not to sweat it, didn’t we?). People want to hang on to the nonsense and carry on like a bunch of monkeys, let ’em!

And I felt really good. There’s lots of ways to take that proverb. One is, don’t sweat the small stuff (see above).  Just because everybody around you is going nuts doesn’t mean you have to.  For me, it’s a call to let go of grandiosity: do I really think I’m qualified or capable of solving the problems of the world?

But then I did something dangerous. I started to think more about it. For the first time in our lives, we’re living as part of a community, not solely individuals on our own. So far that’s felt really good. It’s meant unaccustomed support in adversity, a source of strength and comfort and companionship. That’s the good stuff. But then — what about the nonsense?

There’s always nonsense. People in any group larger than one get involved, embroiled, carried away. I get really impatient when that happens, say, at community meetings. (Heaven knows it happens in families all the time!) My immediate instinct is to cut out, mentally if not physically. What a boost for me the proverb is! Not my circus, not my monkeys.

But what if it is? Sometimes it actually is, isn’t it? My circus, my monkeys, my family, my community. My political party. My country. What then?

There’s the uncomfortable part of belonging to something more than oneself. Things aren’t so simple anymore. What’s good for me may not be good for all. What I want might be the opposite of what you want. What I need might interfere with what you need. It gets tricky very quickly, when we’re all under one Big Top together.

As for the monkeys — Well, I’ve got my wild and crazy side just like you do. My irrationalities, my stubbornness, my mischievous energy. My restlessness, my boredom, my impatience. Much as I’m loath to, I’ve got to claim some of these monkeys as my own.

The proverb, then, is sometimes right, but oftentimes tragically wrong.

The world is the way it is (oh, today’s headlines! these terrible headlines!) because the circus is out of control. The monkeys have taken over, and all the ringmasters have disappeared.

So what do we need? We need some grownups. (Heaven knows there are more than enough monkeys to go around!) What we need are grown-up human beings with the capacity to reason as well as feel emotion.  With self-control enough to be flexible.  With humility enough to value compromise.

And maybe some of us (I’m looking in the mirror here) need reminding that sometimes it IS our circus, and it IS our monkeys, and — for better for worse — it’s up to us to do something about it.



This entry was posted in Challenge, Doubt, Personal Essay and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Not My Circus?

  1. Elisa says:

    I understand it to mean, not my baggage. Monkey on back type thing. Stuff that doesn’t belong on my side of the street (or circus). Also, perhaps a ‘nicer’ acknowledgement of a thing not being my shit and to take care of it yourself.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I agree, Elisa. How I’ve always understood it, and then did again today — except today I also realized the openings for selfishness and insularity it offers, which can tempt the likes of me.
      Thanks very much for visiting and taking the time to comment. Much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Much to think about in this post…especially in today’s circus of a world!


  3. Well coming from someone who is used to dealing with monkeys that fly, I can tell you I so enjoyed this post. We do need to take a step back ,a deep breath and see where the common ground is and begin a dialogue of compromise. Focus on a positive future and saving this little rock we share and depend on for life. Well done, my friend, well done.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh, Tin Man! I forgot about your experiences with the flying monkeys! They’re not quite so benign as the proverb would suggest, eh? I’m glad the post made sense to you, I always appreciate your responses and your comments.


  4. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Great, a very thought provoking post!


  5. Yes, very thought provoking. I almost constantly live by this proverb, and I’m thinking it’s a good thing not all people are like me.


  6. xties says:

    The social structures within which we live require that we recognise our responsibilities and commitments. If it is my circus, then those are indeed my monkeys, and I am accountable for their antics. I also like your comment: “Ah, discernment! Always the challenge!”


  7. Mercy says:

    T2T i love the proverb – helps us right now as parents, of 2 adult “kids”, learning to slowly let go, you know well Indian parents, like Jewish parents, find that hard to do – so I’m going to use this as a mantra to remind ourselves of the new boundaries! 🙂


  8. 2e0mca says:

    Monkeys, Ghosts, Rights, Beliefs… You Name it… We must find a way to cross that immense gap between us as Human Beings of different faiths and cultures or we have only a very short future and the ants will inherit the earth: ( Good post Judith 🙂


  9. Patti Kuche says:

    What a wonderful saying! I made the decision years ago that I had just enough room in my life to cope with certain monkeys in the circus of our family life and somehow, the different circuses get together to support each other about those crazy monkeys, we all have them!


  10. To which I would respectfully add, We need people who possess a genuine desire to become reasonable well informed so they can make better choices. I believe apathy and ignorance is, in part, responsible for the ringmasters disappearance.


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