Saturday, 29 September 2012
The exorbitant path of the ball defies the laws of nature, giving the illusion of a virtuosity not to be comprehended by the human intellect. How is it to be interpreted? Rastelli ends his story here. Could it be that the juggler is juggled. For the dwarf is a joker!
The incomparable, unforgotten juggler Rastelli told this story one evening in his dressing room to me:
In ancient times, he began, there was a great juggler whose fame had spread with the caravans and merchant ships far over the globe. One day the ruler of the Turks, Mohammed Ali Bei, learned of him and sent his messengers to the directions of the wind to seek the master and invite him to Constantinople. Mohammed Ali Bei was a dictatorial, even inhumane, prince. A singer who had not found approval before him was thrown in the dungeon. But his generosity was also well known. An artist who pleased him could count on a high reward!
The master was found and after several months arrived in Constantinople for his audience.
However, he didn't alone. He made very little fuss about his companion - a boy dwarf. To be sure, such an exceptionally fine, graceful and swift little creature had never been seen at Sultan Mohammed Ali Bei's court.
The master and the dwarf never lived under the same roof during their travels. He had good reason to keep the dwarf hidden. The two of them, as is well known, went to the Chinese school and became acquainted with a single simple prop. It was a ball. There was nothing to equal the wonders of this ball.
It seemed as though the master were dealing with a living property. Now docile, now obstinate, affectionate, scoffing, he dealt with his prop as a comrade. No one knew about the secret of the ball. The the nimble dwarf sat inside, playing on compression springs as easily as on the strings of a guitar.
The day commanded by the sultan had arrived. The Hall of the Half-Moon was filled with dignitaries and the ruler as the master bowed toward the throne. He brought a flute to his lips and blew a staccato beat. Suddenly, the ball approached from the soffits and fawned around its master, then jumped on his shoulders! Just as the earth turns around the sun the ball turned around the dancer. There was no spot from head to foot where it did not play. It was just the way the master's concealed helper had done it for years. Now the finale took place. The master took his flute and the flute seized command for itself. The flute breathed new life into the ball and it began to hop. It hopped gradually higher while the master raised his arm. He stretched out his little finger and the ball, obeying a last, long trill, settled on it with a single bound.
As a murmur of admiration went through the crowd, the sultan himself began the applause. The master caught a heavy, ducat-filled purse flung to him and flew from the hall.
He stepped out of the palace to await the loyal dwarf at a remote exit. On the way, a messenger pushed his way through the guards to hand him a note. The letter bore the dwarf's handwriting:
"Dear Master, you must not be annoyed with me. Today you can't show yourself to the sultan. I am sick and cannot leave my bed."
As Rastelli was in his dressing room that evening, he said, "You see that our profession wasn't born yesterday and that we have our own story - or our stories."
The fact that in the morning the pupil knows by heart the contents of the book he has put under his pillow the night before, that the Lord inspires His own in their sleep, and that a pause is creative — to make space for such things to happen is the alpha and omega of all mastery, its hallmark. This, then, is the reward before which the gods have placed sweat. For work which achieves only modest success is child’s play, compared to the success conjured up by luck. This is why Rastelli’s stretched-out little finger attracts the ball, which hops onto it like a bird. The decades’ worth of practice that came to before does not mean that either his body or the ball is ‘in his power,’ but it enables the two to reach an understanding behind his back. To weary the master to the point of exhaustion through diligence and hard work, so that at long last his body and each of his limbs can act in accordance with their own rationality: this is what is called ‘practice.’ It is successful because the will abdicates its power once and for all inside the body, abdicates in favor of the organs — the hand, for instance. This is why you can look for something for days, until you finally forget it; then, one day, when you are looking for something else, you suddenly find the first object. Your hand has, so to speak, taken the matter in hand and has joined forces with the object