People hate clowns….and people love them! High emotional charge surrounds clowns. Some fear or laugh at them, and some say that clowns make them sad or angry. Clowns are primarily emotional beings, and peoples’ responses to this universal archetype are often similar to their own level of comfort and response to emotions in general.
In ancient times, the white-face came from ashes, and the clown often represented death. The clown was seen as a ghost, or someone who had returned from the afterlife and was no longer bound by the rules of society.
The notion of mortality can be both scary and also liberating. By recognizing that you only have so much time to be alive, you can be inspired to live more fully, to make more friends, to create something of beauty to leave in your wake, and to treat each moment of life as a gift and a blessing.
Modern society seems to be narrowing the scope of emotions that are acceptable publicly. Laughter and anger seem to top the charts. New research is starting to show the importance of having an open acceptance of all emotional seasons. This is called “Emotional Intelligence”, and it is the result of an understanding of how damaging repressed and denied emotions can be.
Like nature itself, emotions are often irrational, wild, and hard to control, but they are an essential part of being human. Emotional Intelligence, which is necessary for compassion and empathy, is often more important to success than traditional book-smarts. Clowns can be a wonderful reflection through which humans project parts of their own unconscious, thus bringing up deep feelings.
Oftentimes parents are so excited to get a picture of their child with a clown, that they place the kid in the clowns arms without noticing that the child is terrified. These “implicit” memories can stay with a person for life. Then there is the mean clown who uses a child from the audience to be the butt of his jokes, or the emotionally needy clown who chases and tries to hug kids that are afraid of him/her. No discussion of the topic would be complete without mention of clowns in horror movies, and nightmares.
So, yes, there are many reasons that clowns are hated, and loved. Clowns may be called imaginary characters, but the feelings they provoke can be very real.
How do you respond to clowns? Is it a reflection of how you respond to people who are different than you? Is it a reflection of how you feel about the mysterious world of your own irrational emotions? Do you push these feelings away, or embrace them?
With full acceptance and compassionate embrace for what it is to be human, and without judgment for any naturally felt feeling, a clown is like the child within us that is often neglected and misunderstood. If you have felt your feelings stir, then the clown has done his job!
Perhaps this ancient and mysterious character still has something to teach us in this modern world that has little room for the unknown, the wild, and the irrational…
We’re happy to announce that Jacob Devaney of Living Folklore will be a guest artist at this year’s Procession of Little Angels festival on Saturday, November 6th at Armory Park! Check out his websites and learn about the Giggle Bubble Dream project!