On our pleasant, prosperous downtown mall, we have entertainers and buskers of many stripes --everyone from fire-eaters, magicians, and left-behind 50s folkie guitarists to Zip Code Man. Some are excellent (the occasional string quartet or visiting bluegrass band) and some are horrible (the bam-bam-bam drummers and the pathetic didgedoorists.
We also have a contortionist, whom I personally find difficult to watch.
To me, the contortionist is not so much an entertainer as he is an allegory of the human condition. He's what they used to call in earlier centuries an emblem.
While other performers try to attract an audience by subtlety and guile, our contortionist merely shouts, "Look at me. Everybody, look at me" -- which I take as a metaphor or icon or emblem. When he calls out, "Look at me," he's simply doing what the rest of us want to do but don't have the courage to do: call attention to ourselves, ask for praise. We're all saying, "Look at me," but, becaused we're civilized and mannerly beings, we strive to do so by being indirect or ironic or clever. Not the contortionist. He's honest about himself and about the true, elemental state of mankind. He shouts, "Look at me" -- and then he ties himself into knots.