As I go through the photos I took while strolling the midway at the Cheshire Fair this week, I’m struck by our apparent fascination with shooting games, with aiming at and hitting targets.
Wherever you look on a carnival midway, you’ll see the telltale clues: signs hawking Water Gun Fun, or a family gathered to encourage their boy, dressed in Bart Simpson yellow, to give the pistols a try.
There’s a gaggle of girls cheering Little Brother as he tries his hand at darts…
…and a duo of carnival workers waiting for someone, anyone, to try their hand at the rifles.
You could say, judging from these photos, that our culture is obsessed with weapons, finding fun among implements of violence.
Even Zen admits there’s an art in archery, the goal in any target-sport being the tranquility of mind needed to realize you and your quarry are not separate. In the midst of a hot and screaming county fair midway, can you find the presence of mind to calm yourself, find your center, and take aim from that center, hitting your target with a one-pointed mind?
As I look through the random pencam pictures I took after burning my digicam batteries–shots that were literally aimless as I held my pencam chest-level in the direction of something I hoped would be interesting–I realize I too am a midway shooter, aiming for something far less tangible than a red bulleye, line of soda cans, or bunch of yellow balloons.
The target I didn’t know I was aiming for, now that it’s hit me, turns out to be that same moment of tranquility that every target-shooter hopes for. It’s that moment of hushed expectant pause where the whole surrounding world slows and stops, what T.S. Eliot called “the still point of the turning world.”
Yes, you can find a still point even on a county fair midway among the lights and music, twirling rides, and ever-present smell of frying food. You can catch it, quick, in the eyes of a Tiny Dancer waiting patiently for refreshment after her troupe’s bandstand performance…
…or in the tired, steady hands of a worker counting change in a ticket booth, her profile framed by slogans.
And in my favorite of all my blind pencam shots, you see the turning world slow and stop in the expectant, searching eyes of one young man standing beside the Tornado. With his girlfriend or sister at his side, indifferent, what is he looking at or for, so serious, as the rides around him blur?
We’re all searching for something, some of us taking conscious aim and others of us shooting randomly, receptive, waiting for a target worthy of our consideration to stroll into view. At the still point of the turning world, you will realize your goal–connection–whether you were consciously looking for it or not. And in that moment, you’ll take home the Grand Prize: your Still Self never separate from the Whirling World. Bullseye!