Being Human: Seeing The Real Story
By Liam Klenk
Editors Note: Liam worked for a number of years as an Aquatic show diver for The House of Dancing Water in Macau, China. He was part of the show’s creation and assisted the performers in the training and development of their scuba requirements for performance. He supported the cast underwater during shows and assisted in the movement of the underwater scenic elements.
Working for one of the biggest shows in the world brought out the best and the worst in people. Much like living on an actual island, nothing stayed hidden, nothing was private. It was just another large family. People took care of each other as well as breaking each other’s hearts. And sometimes, beautiful things happened.
I vividly remember one conversation I had with our Artistic Director. We were discussing the negativity and blame culture prevalent throughout our ten-floor venue.
“I believe everyone is under too much pressure,” I said. “Besides, we live in a bubble. We are too overworked to make local friends. And Macau is small. You can’t go out of your apartment without meeting at least a dozen people from work. When you’re on the edge, with nowhere to turn for balance, things get ugly.”
“You might be right,” Matthew conceded. “One main thing I notice is that people are too readily blaming others for anything. No one ever stops to ask themselves why someone has done or said something. Let me tell you a story.
In our first year here, Robert who was a performer for the motorbike act was becoming a real problem. He wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t adapt, and was becoming ever more aggressive toward his fellow moto riders as well as the stage managers. Everyone in management began discussing if we might need to get rid of him. But I kept wondering what was going on.
So one day, I went to the motorbike riders’ outdoor training space and spent the morning watching those guys do their incredible stunts. As always, it struck me how much they risk during every second of flying through the air on their bikes.
After practice, I found Robert behind a trailer and said, ‘Hey buddy, it was a pleasure watching you. Can I talk to you for a second?’
He looked as if his famous temper might flare up but then said, ‘Ok.’
I asked, ‘You seem to get into a lot of trouble lately. What’s going on? Are you alright? Is there anything I can do for you?’
He seemed taken aback by my question and looked at me for a while as if he was trying to gauge my sincerity. Then he said, ‘Oh man, I am just dying with pain. My tooth is killing me. It’s been killing me for months.’
‘What?’ I said, flabbergasted. ‘So what were you going to do? Just wait for it to heal itself or fall out?’
He just shrugged and then told me more about his life before coming to our show.
It turned out Robert had grown up in a trailer park in the US. His family had been so poor, they couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. All his life, he had known no other way but to live with the pain until it went away again. But his tooth had been decaying in his mouth for months, the agony making it almost impossible for him to think. Still, he had managed to come to rehearsals and ride two shows every day.
I sent him to the dentist straight after our talk. Once his tooth was taken care of, he was a changed man. He visibly relaxed. And look at him now. He is taking care of the younger moto riders and has become a real role model for them.
Instead of getting angry and jumping to conclusions when someone says or does something rubbing us the wrong way, we need to ask questions and think that, maybe, they have a reason that has nothing to do with us personally.”
I was amazed and thankful to have met someone like Matthew on my journey. His words have stayed with me ever since. Whenever someone gets in my face, whenever I feel threatened by someone’s behaviour, I try to remind myself of Matthew’s wisdom.
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