I recently went to hear an ex-Cirque de Soleil clown speak on failure. Odd aspects of articulating our humanness never fail to intrigue, and Colin Gee, the clown, actor, and observer of life, was no exception. He also surprised, although with a billing of ‘clown, Cirque de Soleil, and failure,’ how can you not be surprised?
His personal portrait revealed the clown’s willingness to fail, in order to reveal vulnerabilities…an elixir that makes laughter grow and love bloom. Is that why clowns are loved? We admire acrobats, who never fail, but we cherish the clown, who must fail in order to win trust. Both work limits in the human condition, and the measure of success, or failure, is very high. Both reveal themselves in bright lights, either in flight with angels, or bottoming out in seas of emotional weight. Neither can pretend. Neither can be half-assed. Both must succeed in un-expected ways. Each works with well-defined constructs, dealing with a force greater than themselves, gravity—lest we forget: the primary mechanical principal of life on earth.
Bringing clown-awareness into our daily lives is an important balancing tool to onslaught of push and shove to ‘excellence,’ and to our terrible fears of failure. A base condition for the clown is humiliation, a state of non-grace we moderns shun. Another base condition is listening, listening to audience response, listening to the ego’s ability to relinquish its hold, listening to the character we are inhabiting at any given moment. The ear is another tool we are in jeopardy of loosing as we shout at each other through tweets, and likes, and links. Who has time to listen when we need everyone to hear us? I, for one, am making my list of ‘Clown Rules’ –reminders for each day, before the linking, liking, and licking of ass take me down.
* Stay open to all possibility, however silly and rambunctious.
*Breathe into the day’s precariousness. Risk uncertainty. Learn to grow wings.
*Listen to my audience, feel into another’s angst before responding. Let go of my agenda.
*Be willing to fail, over and over. And over and over. And over and over.
*Learn to leap up, put on a big red nose, laugh, dry the tears and try again.
*Bring awareness to my characters, my many personalities – alive and dead. Become more aware of choices they are making.
*The bottom is always dropping out. Be interested in that moment and learn.
*Problem solving is a clown’s mantra. Bring vulnerability, availability, and acceptance to chanting this mantra.
*Be nuanced in both physical and psychological choices, for the nuance reveals, and links, this step to the next.
*Be child-like, playing a day with the whole heart; creating in each moment, growing non-judgmental; risking it all.
photo-by Will Cuervels of Rebecca Darling preparing for flight