Can blind-belief be bad? This is a question that haunts me after rereading “Circus Mirandus” a third time. In this book, published in 2015, a boy visits a circus that can only be found by people (kids) who believe in magic. The author, Cassie Beasley, uses her own literary magic to weave a fantasy world where people live for thousands of years with a reality of an aged man dying of a respiratory disease.
The boy’s name is Micah, and it is his caretaker-grandfather, Ephraim, who is dying. Throughout the entire book Micah believes that the magic of Circus Mirandus, a place that both Ephraim and Micah visit, can save his grandfather from the inevitable; End of life.
It is hardships that bring the circus into both boys’ lives. Grandpa Ephraim found the circus when he was a youth and his father had been sent to war. He was battling depression and loneliness. Micah was drawn to the circus by the stories his grandfather had shared with him and the fact that this might be a place where he could find a cure for his grandfather’s worsening sickness.
Another main character of the text is a man called Lightbender or “The Man Who Bends Light”. This ages-old mystic is a confessed illusionist. Toward the end of the book he reveals that he only causes people to think they see things. For example, part of his show is to get kids to visit Antarctica. They feel like they are actually there. Penguins are squawking all around them. In reality, the kids are sitting safely inside a tent at Circus Mirandus. This mind-bending power is used several times, in several ways, and for several reasons. In the end, Micah realizes that the power to believe something has its limitations.
I read this book to myself, then to my daughter, and I just finished reading it aloud to my third grade class. A powerful vibe I get when I’m wrapped up in the storyline is the idea of faith or blind-belief. The thing is Micah and his friend Jenny, who he brings along with him to the circus the first time he visits, don’t blindly believe. Jenny is portrayed as a rational, scientifically-minded girl, who can’t view the circus until Micah coaxes her to just give it a try. He teaches her to be open-minded to magic. At one point in the text Jenny is even more open-minded than Micah. Beasley does an excellent job developing her characters and maintaining their deep personalities, even through this seeming role-reversal. Jenny continues to be calculating, constantly planning, while Micah’s faith is wrapped up in his emotions and unfounded hopes.
Micah matures throughout the text, and in the end, Micah induces a purposeful, man-made, blind faith by actually closing his eyes to reality. You will have to read the book to understand what I mean. I’ll share Chintzy, the messenger’s hint: “Don’t look down”.
As I reflect upon whether I think that it is okay to allow children to “believe” in Santa Claus, leprechauns, cupids, tooth fairies, and the like, I am realizing that this novel is The Book that Bends Light. While reading it, you get sucked into a slightly altered reality where magic really does exist. A movie that this reminds me of is “The Matrix”. The main character of that flick is Neo, a young man delivered from the make-believe world of computer-generated bliss. While not everything was hunky-dory for Neo before leaving the Matrix, reality is even more grim.
In “The Matrix” characters get “plugged into” a virtual reality world that is made up solely of zeros and ones. It isn’t real. This being said, if a person dies while being plugged in, their mind, so wrapped up in the believable fantasy world, will break, and the actual, physical body will die. Neo ends up being his own “Light-Bender”, escaping the trappings of the mind to live beyond the Matrix.
I am writing this blog during a seemingly dystopian time of pandemic closures and lockdowns. COVID-19 is sweeping the nation and world, infiltrating all socio-economic statuses, ages, and races. This virus is undetectable for up to 5 days, lasts about two weeks when in effect, and kills between 3 and 4 percent of its victims. There is a lot of talk about different actors multiplying the calamity of this virus through spreading dis- and misinformation. Some say the media has made a big stink about next to nothing. Many more people die from lots of other viruses and diseases. We don’t freak out about them! Others say that authorities should have taken the virus more seriously at the beginning. Government officials attempted to bend the light that science was trying to shine on this very serious problem. By acting like the virus was no big deal, were authorities communicating that 3-4% of the population was expendable? Their actions, if not some of the blatant messaging seemed to communicate, “The stock market crashing isn’t worth worrying about three to four out of one hundred people.”
How much of the rise and fall of stock prices depends on belief? It seems like a circus sometimes. When the dust settles, I wonder how many Neos will be unplugged from the make-believe-world constantly telling us everything is hunky dory. You can pull the cord, or it will be ripped from your head as the earth falls away. If you pull the cord yourself, you can self-educate and learn to adapt and survive.
I recommend you weave plenty of entertaining activities into your self-educating-agenda. Reading is a great escape from both the Matrix and reality. I like books that make you think, and Circus Mirandus does just that! It explores the dangers of the pull of power. If you had the power to cause others to believe things, what would you do with it? Luckily, there are people in the world who work to help children and others believe in a better tomorrow. That is my aim.
Although slightly dark, I hope that this blog is inspirational, also. What do you do to help others see the light?