While I was clowning at Oregon Country Fair last weekend, the Hopi Indians in Northern Arizona were celebrating their Home Dance, it’s one of the holiest days in their ceremonial calendar and they were also clowning there too. The Home Dance is the time the Kachina’s (the holy messengers of the Great Spirit) return to their homes atop Mt. Humphrey. Even at this most sacred celebration there are clowns, who provoke even these holy angels with their irreverence (singing out of tune, dancing out of step, parodying drunkenness, sexual innuendos) and their antics are considered therapeutic.
It was when I was working in Indian Country that I learned to appreciate the clown as a sacred healer, and came to understand what the distinguished Swiss psychologist Carl Jung called the Clown Archetype. An archtype is a universal character in the unconscious mind, and one that’s been present in every culture in human history. The Clown/Fool/Jester/Trickster has served the purpose of lightening the mood, defusing anxiety, helps us laugh at ourselves, and look at the familiar from another perspective.
I appreciated clowns, but never actually clowned publicly until I was 50 years old and met Patch Adams MD, the world’s most recognized humanitarian clown. Patch was responsible for my coming out as a public clown, and for the last 25 years I have joined him doing so all over the world.
Every year in early August we clown together in Iquitos, Peru with 100 clowns from around the world. For the last decade, we have come to the distressed neighborhood of Belen to energize its citizens’ dreams for a healthier life. We conduct workshops for children, paint murals, conduct public health outreach, and mental health clinics in the streets. We parade, perform street theater, visit hospitals, prisons, shelters, hospices, and leave behind a core group of clowns who continue to work with local organizations in the community.
I love this work; I love getting out of my head and into my spontaneous child mode; I love being with other clowns, we remind each other of what we like best about ourselves… to be able to connect with people from any walk of life and culture at a heartfelt, soulful level.
People sometimes ask me what tribe I belong to, and I say am a member of the Clown Tribe; I am one with clowns all over the world who connect with people at the heart level, it reminds us of our shared humanity. Join the Clown Tribe, it’ll make you feel better…especially in these hard, divisive times.