Clown School Saved my Life
My Path of Creative Mastery #11
Why do we do the things we do?
Why do we make art?
Why do I create and play embarrassing characters that express uncomfortable aspects of myself? Why do I don a fake beard and clown around with being a sexist red-necked duffus who has an experience of being turned into a woman? Why does my sister slurp her way across the stage as an existential worm to ask us;
Why do I give up boring opportunities to make money in order for more time to train and study and create?
Why can’t I just be a normal?
You know why? Because I would DIE that is why.
In another world I worked a 9–5 job and nearly stopped existing. While not quite suicidal, I was the next step away from it. Apathetic, despondent, and sad. So very sad. I really did NOT like myself. I was so cruel and mean to my beautiful self. I’m sorry I did that. I didn’t know.
I was just following what I thought a normal person was to do.
What is normal anyway? Who gets to decide what is normal?
It took me well into my 30s to learn that I didn’t fit into the social construct of go to school and get a job. I didn’t fit into the construct of get married and have a kid.
I am A-Ok with that.
Am I happy with my choices?
I didn’t plan on becoming a “clown”, but it was a series of life choices that brought me to discovering something that taught me how to find hope, grace and acceptance in the face of failure.
Clown school saved my life.
Through clowning I have learned valuable life skills of connection, communication and of becoming comfortable in the discomfort that is the unknown.
There IS a mission within clowning for me. It is in the celebration of the multi-facets of what it means to be human. It is the investigation of what is absurd or wrong or confounding about ourselves and society. It is the sharing of vulnerability and honesty, the dissolving of shame through exposure.
Expose the shame, and it seems to go away.
In clowning we get to expose the underbelly, that which is often not so pretty, but maybe something we’ve all been thinking or hiding. This sharing can bring about a connection and a togetherness. A feeling that we are not alone in our fears and shadows.
In clowning we break patterns and trances to offer alternate solutions, new discoveries and creative outcomes.
Some people don’t want their reality messed with. No wonder clowns can be frightening.
“The clown does not fit in, indeed refuses to fit into, the patterns and constructions of the conventional world, representing some other order of being. The clown gets everything wrong: dress, decorum, logic, speech, gestures, and movements; yet in this wrongness is a rightness of another sort. Out of this foolishness rises another level of wisdom.”
(Source: The Laughing Buddha: Zen and the Comic Spirit by Conrad Hyers)
In my school of clowning we have been taught about the invitation of play. We extend an invitation for interaction or play. If this invitation is turned down, we move on. We choose our allies and engage with those who are literally at the edge of their seats with a willingness to play.
This is clown consent. It is very important to me.
So what IS a clown anyways?
It’s not the red nose, the big shoes or the juggling that makes one a clown. Although this can be a part of the clown for sure.
One of my teachers, David MacMurray Smith offers:
“….at the core of a Clown is a Human Being. One who can take delight in the experience of being Human and enjoys conversing about the experience. Beyond what we traditionally think of as Clown, there is a particular attitude of mind that is willing to continually face up to itself with insightful honesty as it evolves and a quality of heart that can compassionately acknowledge the feelings that are encountered in the process.”
Another clown mentor of mine, Sonia Norris says that;
“Clown is about resiliency and survival and bouncing back — and pleasure and hope and joy! It’s about the continued belief in tomorrow and the radical hope that this requires”
I’m in to that.
Laughing feels so good. It opens us, it helps us hear and digest something that we may not want to or be open to hearing.
Consider the “sacred clowns” that are inherent in many indigenous cultures.
“In some tribes religious ceremonies cannot even begin until all the people, particularly any strangers, have laughed.”
In clowning I have found a way to express my thoughts, ideas and shadows with delight and laughter. I have found a way to turn neurosis, heartbreak and disappointment into their own characters that are no longer “me”. I have found a way to embrace fear and failure and to laugh at myself. With myself.
“I’m laughing WITH you, you are just not laughing” -Edna Myrtle
This is blog post #11 out of 52 that I will document my path to creative mastery through tap dance. This week I put in 18 hours of clown work and 3 hours of tap practice before I tore some meniscus cartilage in my right knee and had to “shut ‘er down”. I have seen a physiotherapist and the injury is minor, yet it has been recommended I take a week off from tap dancing.
So there. Rest up. Talk to you in a week.
As always, I welcome feedback, comments and conversations around any and all subject matter included in my blog posts. I recognize my spilling and gramma is often creative.. feel free to correct me!
Do you wish to find more creativity in your life? Maybe I can help! Drop me a line: email@example.com
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