Article in “Caduceus” magazine (1994)
The Sacred Clown - A Fool For Truth
Lex van Someren
In the world today there is a growing need for a humour that comes from a sincere and honest place, and which connects with the changing consciousness emerging in people all over the world. There is a lot of heartless humour around, especially on TV - either in sitcom series (with taped laughter to get you to laugh), or in stand-up comedy, or in funny, silly acts in the commercial entertainment world which are of a very mediocre and superficial quality. This kind of humour may give some degree of insight, but it lacks the depth of the soul which shines from the heart. It can be very confronting, aggressive and embarrassing, and full of double entendres or sexual innuendo - and is certainly not healing or enlightening. More and more people are turning away from this superficiality and heartless materialism. I hear of many people who are no longer watching TV because of its mediocrity - and indeed, disassociating from other media too.
Furthermore, we are now living in a transformational time. In times like this there is a great need for uplifting, and here I see a great role for humour as a healing agent. It can alter our perspective on life in such ways that we can see more positive possibilities, so that we can change our way of living. We can get down to the real issue of what healing is about, in a truly wholistic sense.
Ram Dass said: “there is much too little beautiful and spiritually uplifting humour in the inner growth and wholistic health movement. Everybody is taking themselves much too seriously; they don’t really work on themselves to get this kind of inner cosmic giggle, in which you see the total absurdity of your own predicament.”
This is what beautiful uplifting humour can do. It is a delicate, unexpected and unconventional way of showing you the total absurdity of your own predicament.
It can present this truth to us in such a gentle, positive and compassionate way, that it allows us suddenly just to be, to accept ourselves just as we are, with both the light and shadow side.
There is a great need for humour that springs from the heart - a more gentle kind of humour, where the comedian isn’t making a fool of other people, but is rather using him or herself as the medium, as the target of the humour.
I have created a character called Lexis, a sacred clown, who is inspired by this gentle, compassionate humour. I give performances as Lexis. The show for adults is something beyond the normal clown-act. Using an “earthball” (a kind of globe of the earth) as a prop, theatre-clown Lexis humorously illustrates the vision of the planetary citizens entering a new era of global co-operation, unity and commitment, where we will restore the balance of life on earth. This theatre show is a simple but powerful demonstration of how the creative process in and amongst people can be initiated and developed from a sacred perspective.
I also teach courses in “sacred clowning” so that participants can get in touch with these “humorous meditations” within themselves.
In sacred clowning, we play and juggle with the dualities, of life. We turn things upside down, switching from one extreme to the other - playing with opposites - we can get a completely different perspective on our own personal illusory reality.
This kind of clowning is a guiding force towards inner freedom. It guides us to a higher truth, to a state of awareness beyond our little personal truths - a state of being beyond the world of conflicting opposites. From this perspective humour is a powerful healer - bringing an awareness of wholeness. It’s not simply a going from one side of the coin to the other; it is not simply identifying with one side of ourselves and then the other. Rather, the humorous play takes us to a position outside of and above the polar opposites, and we see both sides with equal compassion - we rise above the polar opposites.
So this sacred humour puts our lives in perspective, showing us the relative unimportance of what we do, say or think, compared to the greater whole of this universe.
Sacred humour is a practice of shifting consciousness. In common with other spiritual and psychological healing practices, it helps us create a healthy distance between us and our attachments and preoccupations.
WE THE AUDIENCE
We all know how difficult it can be to look the truth in the eye. Clowns use humour to communicate things which can be very hard to look at directly. With humour we can express truth in an indirect way - indirect, in the sense of not pointing a finger at any individual, but still communicating a very clear and straightforward message.
When this is done, we the audience have a conscious or unconscious recognition that our own lives are being mirrored within the clown’s act and this creates laughter. Before we realise it, we are laughing, and our laughter is not at the performer, but at ourselves.
Because it is done in an indirect way it is not so confrontative, and therefore we feel easier accepting it and laughing at it.
The clown is thus a mirror to our own lives. When we look into a physical mirror, we see sides of ourselves that we don’t normally see, perhaps don’t want to see. The clown functions as a mirror for us in the same way. He/she presents those sides to us in a delightful, subtle, surprising and creative way. Through this we can accept our unwelcome sides. Laughing at ourselves is a release, an emotional process of letting go of mind stuff, of ego, as we suddenly enter a space of just being.
For example, we might laugh at the clown’s awkwardness. Or consider an archetypal situation of a clown reaching for something high but perpetually falling, dragged earthwards by gravity. This looks silly and we laugh, because the clown is mirroring our own imperfections and misfortunes as human beings, things we don’t normally accept. The clown, in fact, shows us a deep yearning for love, for the light, for the sacred, for the perfect - which he/she never really reaches. The clown is struggling through life with this yearning, and we recognise our own struggle, our own yearning for a sacred world, for a sacred life. In laughing we express our recognition that it is okay, or even wonderful, to be imperfect, and to have misfortunes. This creates delight, that kind of “aaaahhh” feeling.
Laughter is very human, as is crying - they are a bodily letting go, an emotional release that comes with the sudden realisation of the real truth of our lives.
Of course, the humour I am talking about must be distinguished from cynical and sarcastic so-called “humour” born out of pain, aggression, depression and fear of love and compassion. That’s an imprisoning kind of humour, which can keep us stuck in negativity, which is only one side of the coin of life on this planet. Neither am I talking here about mediocre and superficial humour.
Good clowns or comics make us see ourselves in relation to greater truths, and that is what creates the laughter. They make us see our own illusions, for we live a life with a lot of illusions about who we are and what we do. They make us see how funny and how ridiculous many of the things we do in life really are - how our strivings are often for things of dubious or temporary or superficial value.
Osho said “You are a fool, a joker, fooling yourself with illusory ideas that you are this or that. It’s a joke, an illusion. You only “are”.”
That, however, is a statement based on a universal reality. If we recognise this, then we can create a distance (a detachment) from whatever we are involved in; we become able to see its relativity.
A SPIRITUAL SEARCH
My path as an artistic clown and teacher is a spiritual search - a search for truth or enlightenment. It is an expression of my deepest yearning. Of course, not everyone understands my clowning at this level, and neither is this necessary. Clowning is the art of simplicity which can be appreciated by people from all walks of life, and naturally by children too.
This work with humour has also helped me in my own life and brought enormous healing for me. It has enabled me to be more relaxed, and to see the relativity of things and not to be so pushy in life - to see things from a higher perspective.
Actually, this clowning and this humour come from a deep, sad place via many tears. My childhood was difficult - I had to grow through a lot of pain and struggle. This made me look for humour, and that has helped me. All my life experiences, the pain and the tears, are absolutely vital in my clowning. Now I can see how those experiences have helped me to understand life and to understand other people’s struggles. All this has helped me to get to the point where I can experience life fully and intensely. I know about the tragic side of life, the loneliness that most of us go through at some point in our lives, the yearning for love or for inner peace, or the longing just to be with true friends.
At some point we all have to face the choice either to accept our alone-ness in this world or to fight against this truth. Either way there is tragedy and struggle involved, but when we arrive at acceptance, then there is grace, beauty and love in the midst of all the pain. And from this space a sacred artist, a clown, a comic can draw enormous, deep, touching inspiration.
I always say to people (because it is what I deeply feel), that you can’t be a good clown without having a strong connection to your own tears, your own tragedy. People have been telling me for years that I am a very serious person, that they can’t imagine me being a clown. This is said about other clowns as well. In daily life these clowns are also very serious people. It has to do with not being superficial, but rather going into the depths of life. And in these depths there are both the shadow and light sides.
I can draw a lot of inspiration from getting in touch with my sadness and my tears and from there journeying towards humour. It’s a journey through the world of dualities, going from tears to laughter and back again. That journey of playing with dualities, with opposites, is the exciting part, because when we do it with full awareness it can raise our consciousness far beyond the dualistic world into a space where we experience inner freedom. There we find the space for joy, heart-felt humour, delight and wonder.
THE INNOCENT CHILD WITHIN
In my work I guide people into the world of humour, of opening up to their creative power and of getting in touch with that innocent child that we all have within us. This child is a big part of the sacred art of clowning: the feeling and expression of wonder and delight, which is an expression of gratitude for being alive.