Campus Currents

Life's a Ball

Michael Moschen is telling stories in DeMeritt Hall. While he talks, three white balls are in constant motion at waist level, back and forth between his hands, a small miracle of elegant choreography. He talks about hitting golf balls as a kid—not playing golf, just swinging at balls. He would stand in a big field near the projects where he lived. He'd swing and swing, using trees as targets. "It wasn't about outward recognition," he says. "It was about developing that feeling of skill."

Today, the golf-ball-hitting enthusiast is one of the world's most visionary jugglers, transforming the circus act into something so original that he is hailed as a genius in reviews. In 1990, the MacArthur Foundation made the designation official with its Fellows Award, better known as the "Genius" award.

Michael Moschen

Described as "a dancer-physicist" and a virtuoso who reveals "the secrets of the universe," Moschen will perform in Johnson Theater as part of the UNH Celebrity Series. But for now, this self-described math and science junkie is wowing a lecture hall full of students with a demonstration of the art of physics. His hands remain seemingly motionless, the balls pushed and pulled as if by some mysterious magnetic force. He never looks down. "Learn to make a good throw," he says, "and the catching will take care of itself."

Moschen is talking about the craft he has perfected in disciplined solitude eight hours a day for more than 20 years. But everything Moschen says morphs into metaphor. "Either you spend your life making bad catches or you learn how to make good throws," he says. Understand the principles of juggling, he insists, and you'll understand life. For Moschen, it's all about the search for meaning. "The reason I do what I do," he says, "is that I love the questions. Getting closer to an answer is not the goal. The most interesting thing you can do is to put the answer off. Let the journey take you over."

The balls are moving again, this time perpetually spinning in the palm of one hand. Moschen is telling another story. He was sitting on his living room couch, he says, practicing the same open-palm technique he is demonstrating right now. A brand new father, he looked over at his wife and infant daughter and in that moment, a new move was born. He demonstrates: One of the three moving balls rises from the palm of his hand and crosses over the other two. Again and again the ball rises and falls, rises and falls. "This is the way it feels to welcome a child into a relationship," says Moschen. The balls are fluid. They never stop moving. The audience is transfixed. And it seems, just for an instant, that the meaning of life is harbored in the palm of his hand.

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