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History of Juggling

History of Slapstick

How to Juggle

How to Make Juggling Balls


Defy gravity. Spread joy.

How can we defy gravity
and spread a little joy?
Beyond jokes and joviality,
what gifts can we employ?

Maybe serving, creativity,
discovering, advising,
teaching, hospitality,
training, organizing?

Could living with vitality,
when all is said and done,
come from our plurality,
and out of many, one?

Does this eventuality
seem an impossible end?
Wishful spirituality?
Come believe with me, friend.

© Nels Ross Cremean

Let There Be Laughter

And God said, "Let there be laughter,
joyful noises now and hereafter.
Let there be funny sounds of all sorts—
chuckles, chortles, titters, and snorts."

"Bouts of ha ha’s and shouts of elation,
expressed aloud throughout creation—
all tribes and types, simple and scholars,
voicing delight with whoops and hollers."

"Let there be echoes in bellows of mirth
that cry for peace on all the earth.
Let there be found in moments of cheer
hope that will wipe away every tear."

Thus we have giggles and guffaws
to cope with all our fumbles and flaws,
lift our spirits, ease our pain,
relate to others, and keep us sane.

We can choose how to use this gift—
abuse or amuse, put down or uplift,
make walls or bridges, build or destroy,
include or exclude, bring sorrow or joy.

Can we poke fun? Yeah! Even jibes jibe,
in between friends and poking all sides.
Good humor is not necessarily tame,
yet it reminds us that we are the same.

Wondering minds might consider this
a treasure or a taste of bliss,
for hurts are forgotten, fears take flight,
worries are stilled, and burdens are light.

A glimpse of heaven? What do we spy
in laughing faces and twinkling eyes?
Some may call this irreverent or delirious.
They just may be a little too serious!

© Nels Ross Cremean

Live, Laugh, Love, Learn

An original poem to read top to bottom, left to right, or otherwise.


We see it overused and abused,
Only to excuse fleeting ways.
"Live in the moment. Now.
Once." Is that seizing the day?

We gain momentum in moments
Only when now and next align.
Live in the moment and look ahead,
Once and again, over time.

We add meaning to momentum
Only with an "other" key –
Live to love and serve others,
Once "you" evolves to "we."

We Only Live Once? #WOLO?
Only the challenge is now…
Live with this new heart and mind,
Once grace reminds us how.

© Nels Ross Cremean


Tribute to Andrew Sears Barden

Tribute to Andrew Sears Barden (12/18/72 – 10/8/17)
by Nels Ross Cremean

A fool can be someone who is senseless or unwise. A court fool brings joy to the king’s court. A juggling fool loves to juggle. A holy fool "subverts convention or orthodoxy or varies from social conformity in order to reveal spiritual or moral truth" (American Heritage Dictionary). Which fool was Andrew? I’ll let the reader decide.

Andrew was my "brother from another mother" and co-founder of In Jest. He was an instigation— I mean, inspiration for my life’s work, first with In Jest and now with The UP Guys. Though he moved to the west coast and on to other pursuits, he remained a lifelong friend, fellow oddball, entrepreneur, tree hugger, lover of souls, and peace seeker.

Lifelong Friend

Andrew and I first met while still in our mothers’ wombs. Both our parents were ministers with the United Methodist Church in central New York. (At his parents’ 50th anniversary party, we shared how we first played together under tables at conferences in our diapers. He quipped, "We were what, 12 years old? Still wear yours?" I said, "Depends!")

He was genuinely funny. And not always on purpose. When we were kids, he’d pour a heaping bowl of cereal and then add milk. Predictably, cereal would spill onto the table. Every time. I asked, "Why not take less?" He’d just grin and wipe his chin, already on to something else.

That was Andrew. He wanted a big bowl of life!

Fellow Oddball

Many early memories involved juggling and clowning around, especially at Camp Casowasco in Moravia, NY. He was typically the more adventurous one. After consuming Skittles and Mountain Dew, he’d propose something brilliant like, "Let’s throw these clubs at each other!"

The challenges escalated after that. "Why not torches? On unicycles?!" Well, here’s why not…

As teens, we showed off our fire juggling skills at camp. And it worked! However… We did it indoors with a low ceiling and set off the smoke alarms, and the campers had to evacuate. We said, "That was stupid. Let’s not do that again." Yet we did!

We upped our game at a conference held at Roberts Wesleyan College. This time it was in a theater, with Andrew on a balance board and me on a tall unicycle. "Smoke? No problem, high ceiling." And it worked! However… I dismounted at an angle and fell off the stage, torches in hand. He hopped down, then we both popped up and said, "Ta da!" Unfortunately, smoke rises. The alarms went off and everyone had to evacuate. It was deja vu, all over again.

In Jest Co-founder

In college, Andrew found out about The Circus Kingdom, a nonprofit Christian circus devoted to spreading joy and good will. We toured the northeast U.S. with them, doing big events as well as small ones for hospitals, rest homes, developmental centers, and prisons.

Along the way, we developed our talents and tried everything from acrobatics to wire walking to fire breathing. My mom was a fire eater, so you’d think that last skill might come easily. You’d be wrong. Fortunately, my eyebrows have grown back.

Soon after the circus, we co-founded In Jest: The Antic Arts Company, which later incorporated as In Jest, Inc.. He jumped in with both feet to pursue performing, while I was finishing school and starting a family. Then he went back to school, right when I decided to pursue performing and speaking. In the end, In Jest spread joy from 1992-2022.

Looking back, I can’t imagine doing all that I’ve done apart from his influence. Sure, there was my mom too. But my brothers turned out normal. Okay, that’s debatable! The point is they didn’t have Andrew. I did. (I still do.)

And Much More

We’ve only touched on friend, oddball, and In Jest co-founder. We haven’t gotten to entrepreneur, tree hugger, lover of souls, or peace seeker. And there are more great stories… Boating, fishing, and fireworks at the cottage… Telling a spooky campfire story and Andrew charging out of the woods to scare the campers half to death… His 30th birthday at Chuck E Cheese and playing in the ball pit with my kids and his mother…

There was also him living in an RV and going to California, where he considered joining a monastery. That’s where he met his wonderful wife, Sunny. I still don’t get exactly how that went. How do you relinquish worldly attachments and get a woman’s phone number? In short, their common pursuit of mindfulness and contemplative living brought them together.

The fruit of Andrew’s spiritual journey was evident… His heart for service, environmental consciousness, non-aggression, and unity… His ideas for "philanthropic entrepreneurship"… His uplifting spirit, whether with church youth, yogis, hippies, or corporate executives…

Closing Thoughts

Andrew respected the tradition of Kriya Yoga and Paramahansa Yogananda, who believed in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Yogananda taught some things which I believe might help when we’ve lost someone, if we listen with our hearts:

We would not be human if we did not miss loved ones. When a dear one dies, instead of grieving unreasonably, realize that he has gone on… Rejoice that he is free.

Our real self, the soul, is immortal. We may sleep for a little while in that change called death, but we can never be destroyed. We exist, and that existence is eternal. The wave comes to the shore, and then goes back to the sea; it is not lost.

We can grieve reasonably, acknowledging our sadness. We can also rejoice, embracing remembrance over regret. In time, we can even find peace, perhaps watching the waves on the lake and realizing that souls are not lost, except to waters of joy.

From joy people are born; for joy they live; in joy they melt at death.
–The Bhagavad Gita

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
–Psalms 16:11

Within my soul I possess the unconquerable, unchangeable, ever new bliss of God. O divine silent Laughter, be enthroned beneath the canopy of my countenance and smile through my soul.
–The Light of Smiles, by Yogananda

. . .

Our Father in Heaven, I desire
To honor your name
To see your kingdom come, your will be done
To that end, I intend
To embrace the adventures and the mysteries
To remember that we are all connected
To be present, playful, and thankful
To know the bliss of God and to smile through my soul
To have a big bowl of life