Part 3: Clowns
“What really makes clowns creepy is that they are ambiguous characters in so many ways.” Frank McAndrew, Social Psychologist
Despite the Ronald McDonald and Bozo the Clown iconic images of the happy go lucky clown, I’ve always hated clowns. Clowns were scary and strange to me even though clowns were traditionally people made up to make us laugh. Their role was to help us forget our problems, to help us remember to feel joy, to feed us hamburgers (for a price) for goodness sake. The student who became the class clown helped to relieve their own and the classroom stressors and distracted us from the tensions of the day.
“The role of the clown and a physician are the same-it’s to elevate the possible and to relieve the suffering.” Patch Adams, Doctor and Clown
At some point, that happy-go-lucky image began to change though. In books (ie Stephen King), movies and television, clowns began to portayed as scary. Recently media sightings of clowns purposely dressed to incite fear have been reported in the news. It seems the sole intent of these recent scary clowns is to terrify people in person.
Erika Engelhaupt, a blogger for National Geographic posts that she felt part of this current fear of clowns was that they were a symbol that represent the unpredictable. Who was behind the clown face and was it a threat or a gift? She quotes a study on “creepiness” by Frank McAndrews : “Per Frank McAndrew, what really makes clowns creepy is that they are ambiguous characters in so many ways. ‘If a person is willing to flout the conventions of society by dressing and acting as they do,” McAndrew says, “what other rules might they be willing to break?’
That tracks with what McAndrew found in his study, where he surveyed more than 1,300 people to figure out what behaviors and physical characteristics people find creepy. The common factor was unpredictability.
Predictable means certain to occur; destined or inevitable, capable of being anticipated, invariably occurring or appearing.Unpredictable: unforeseeable: incapable of being anticipated
Not My Favorite Clown
Who raises their hand and says we now live in a world of scary unpredictability and worry? My hand goes up. At this very moment, the 45th president of the United States and his band of corporate cronies are challenging the very core of predictability in our democracy, our place in the world and the values we have of a free nation for all. The fear and anxiety for the future is “incapable of being anticipated.”
Our routines and habits give us comfort in their predictability unless the routines are harmful. Anyone who has grown up in an alcoholic, abusive or mentally ill family knows the harm of that unpredictability. Intermittent rewards or punishment are the most stressful and taxing experiences for children. Growing up in a household, or a neighborhood, or a nation of unpredictable behaviors and falsehood is at the core of instability and harm. Healthy habits and routines filled with predictable and trustworthy goals and directives instills trust and stability.
My Favorite Clown Photograph and hand colored by Myk Peterson
Here’s what I can know and do: I want things in my life to be predictable and comforting. I want to know I have enough time, money and energy. I want our house to be visually beautiful, clean and look the same when I leave as when I come home. I want family and friends around me that are healthy and support me in my values. I want to know my government and the president of my United States is not against me, or worse doing me and my loved ones harm. I want to be a part of a world that supports giving and care for all human beings. I want that to be predictable. I want to continue to vision a healthy, equitable and fair world where the health, happiness and care of all people no matter who they are is respected and honored. If we can’t envision it, we can’t know it will happen.
I quote again one of my favorites: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
We all need to practice faith in the unseen and the unknown in action. We need to practice healthy habits for all our mind, body, and spiritual needs to keep us balanced. We need to know that the insanity of the past 90 days will end in something wonderful that we can’t know. So, pay attention to which side of magic, maps and clowns you choose to habitualize. Intend to be open to what we can’t imagine or see.
“If we can’t be open, if we can’t accept what we don’t know, there really is no hope.” Maureen in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce.
Storm and Sun ©Suzanne Lorenz 2016