In a lifelong search for meaning, I have found the clown to be the best, all-encompassing
metaphor for the human condition - an uncompromising mirror to look into for glimpses of the
truth. We look at the clown and see ourselves - our hopes, dreams, fears, and virtues, our flaws
and our process. Clowns show us how, as a species, we get into trouble - without ever meaning
or wanting to - and how, inspite of ourselves, we sometimes stumble onto sublime solutions to our
problems. The Fool has eyes to see, and heart to recognize.
Clowning isn't something we need to learn so much as something we become aware of in
ourselves. Any time that we are curious, playful, or creative, we are in clown mode. When we
are in a state of wonder or awe, surprise or amazement, we are in clown. Whenever we have
hunches, act on impulse, or digress - we are in clown. Whenever we have strong emotions, we
are in clown. The clown lives in the place of laughing and crying at the same time.
The art of clowning involves much more than the slapstick and oversized shoes of the traditional
circus clown. The character of the Fool is an essential ingredient of human society - a universal
archetype found in some form in all cultures and in all times. The Clown is the "pueraeternus",
the eternal child in all of us - the innocent who sees things as they really are and not as
convention decrees, who can be counted on to tell us, in the loudest possible voice, that the
emperor's not wearing any clothes. It is the part of us that has never grown up, that lives in the
heart and in the moment, with no past to regret and no future to dread - the part that only wants to
play, completely free of responsibility - and yet is willing and able to save the world if necessary.
The clown takes everything literally and personally, questioning everything under the sun except
itself, blithely flaunting the egg on its face and the heart on its sleeve. With the best of intentions
and no thought of failure, it leaps naively into danger - getting knocked down over and over - but
never failing to get up and try again. It is an embodiment of hope in the face of hopelessness,
and possibility in the face of the impossible. It blissfully ignores the obvious and somehow
convinces us of the wisdom of folly, and if, as I suspect, we are here to bear witness to the
universe, the clown aspect of ourselves provides the best color commentary. Clowning is about
the freedom that comes from a state of total, unconditional acceptance of our most authentic
selves, warts and all. It offers us respite from our self doubts and fears, and opens the door to
joy. And the best part is, we are all already our clowns. They are here inside us, waiting for us to
recognize them so that they can come out and play.
Jan Henderson (friend, colleague, clown)
The Art and Philosophy of Clowning